SITUATION REPORT: ANGOLA’S CHILDREN - BEARING THE GREATEST COST OF WAR
Jenny Clover, 2002
Countrywide there are thought to be over 10,000 street children in Angola, of whom an estimated 5,000 are in Luanda, driven to the urban areas by both poverty and the civil war over the past eight years. Conditions in Luanda are appalling – in the past 40 years a city with a population of 300,000 has become a sprawling mass of squalid slums with a population of over three million. There is no electricity, sewerage, or clean water in these shantytowns surrounding the central city.
Of all the children in Angola, perhaps none struggle harder or live such a tenuous existence as the children living on the streets of this overcrowded capital. The coastal cities of Benguela and Lobito, and the inland town of Luena have also seen an increase in the number of street children. Separated from their families and unable to rely on kinship networks, they tend to organize into smaller groups with an older child protecting younger children, socially isolated in ghettoised buildings. Many are orphaned or abandoned; some have left starving families or abusive environments. Survival necessitates washing cars, carrying water, scavenging in dustbins, or prostituting themselves. Even for those children who do have a family the options are limited – the economies of provincial cities are so weak and job opportunities virtually non-existent so that children often make more money than adult family members by working on the streets hawking merchandise, washing cars, or as domestic workers. They do not have time to play and are easy prey for falling into delinquency and drugs (petrol, glue and other solvents are sniffed), and extremely vulnerable to diseases and abuse. The majority have never attended school, and very few receive any help.