Office of the Ombudsman has directed that government should withdraw all children living or working in the country’s streets within one year.
The directive follows findings by the Ombudsman that government’s failure to discharge its duties has fuelled the plight of street children and contributed to criminal elements now threatening the country’s streets.
But Minister of Gender, Disability, Children and Social Welfare Cecilia Chazama refused to comment on the directive, saying she has not read the report as she is outside the country,
The findings and recommendations are contained in a report released on Friday in Lilongwe titled ‘Abandoned on the Streets’.
In the report, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma faults the Ministry of Gender, Disability, Children and Social Welfare and councils for what she describes as “subjecting street kids to a vicious cycle, without hope of getting out”.
According to the findings, the Ministry failed in its duty to popularise and implement the National Strategy of Children Living and Working on the Street (NSCLWS) throughout its lifespan (2014-2018).
The aim of the NSCLWS was to coordinate different interventions for the promotion of rights and welfare of vulnerable children, especially children living and working in the streets.
“This left the stakeholders with no guideline on matters to do with children living and working in the streets. This was maladministration. After the expiry of the un-implemented NSCLWS, the ministry has even failed to draw a succeeding guide,” reads the 24-page report.
The report further takes to task some district social welfare officers for being unavailable during court appearances, saying withdrawing of children from the streets is neglect of duty.
The investigation was conducted following a complaint from Eye of the Child, a local non-governmental organisation (NGO).
In an interview, Eye of the Child acting executive director Zipporah Jede expressed he was happy that initiatives his organisation championed have started yielding results.
Some of the recommendations are that district social welfare officers should develop a schedule of all cases pending in courts involving street children and draw a plan to ensure court appearance of social welfare officers.
The Ministry of Gender is also tasked to organise a conference involving all relevant stakeholders in child care and protection to draw a more comprehensive and coordinated plan of action, legal and policy framework