Minister of Gender, Disability and Social Welfare Patricia Kaliati says government will evacuate children from the streets by August 31 to protect them from Covid-19.
She said this at World Vision Malawi (WVM) offices in Lilongwe on Wednesday during a press briefing on risks of school closure and re-opening under Covid-19.
The minister said Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba cities have many street children and the ministry wants them to live in safer habitats.
Said Kaliati: “Ministry officials will from August 20 conduct routine checks to see where the street children are operating in the main streets across the country. The children need to be reintegrated into their communities and families so as to protect them from Covid-19 infection.”
She said government will use cash transfers to help reintegrate the children into families and communities.
“We will use e-payment to provide affected families with support for the children. We will be working with block leaders, parents, guardians and chiefs to ensure proper implementation,” Kaliati added.
On his part, United Nations Office of Drug and Crimes programme officer Maxwell Matewere commended government for the plan.
He said: “There is need to work systematically because, with the closure of schools due to Covid-19, the number of street children has increased.”
Matewere also said the initiative should be linked to the National Response on Covid-19 and further include the provision of supplementary food at community level as was the case with the school-feeding programme to retain more children in the communities.
This is not the first time the minister has implemented this operation.
In 2015, when Kaliati headed the same ministry, she embarked on an initiative to rid streets of beggars and street children but the move was short-lived as the children later returned to the streets.
The operation at the time was implemented through district social welfare offices which identified homes for the children, such as Chisomo Children’s Home and Step Kids Awareness.
According to a 2017 report on street children, the population of the children in Blantyre at the time was 1 800, Lilongwe had 1 200 while Mzuzu had 600.
The social welfare office identified three types of street kids; those who run away from their homes due to various challenges, those who come to town every morning to beg and return home in the evening (normally sent by their parents), and those that were born and raised there.