The three-year initiative was launched in Douentza and Mopti in Mali, and Tambacounda, Kaolack and Dakar in Senegal. The SOS team is providing training to caregivers and educators on child rights and how to earn an income without resorting to child begging.
Children who are victims of abuse or violence are receiving psychological and emotional support. In addition, beneficiaries are also given mosquito nets, sleeping mattresses, access to safe drinking water, and other items to improve their living conditions.
All too common
Child beggars, known as talibes in Arabic, are common in Mali and Senegal. Pleading for money on the street exposes children to the risk of violence, abuse and disease.
In Senegal, street children frequently walk along the motorways, barefoot begging for money. Thousands of street children in Senegal are unable to speak French – the country’s official language. These children are deprived of an education as a result of begging on the streets.
Many of these children have families. However, if a family is living in extreme poverty they may send their children to living at a daaras, a religious school where the Quran is taught. Although some daaras provide children with a decent education, many send the children to beg in order to pay for their room and board.
Reuniting and educatingWithin the first year of the programme, the team in Mali reunited 79 children with their families. An additional 217 children started school. In Senegal, over 60 children attending daaras were brought into the formal education system. The children were temporarily receiving care at a state-run child welfare organisation, while long-term care solutions were being investigated.
The project provided school kits and uniforms, and paid for the children’s school and medical fees until the families are self-sufficient. It is the programmes goal that the families and communities are able to care of their children independently by 2018, when the programme ends.
“When we identify the families, we talk with them to know what caused the children to go begging on the streets. And together, we discuss how we can support them to give proper care to the children. We are working to support the long-term capacity of families to take care of their children,” explained Richard Somé Kouré, Regional Coordinator of the Project.
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