Stop cruelty to children, save abandoned street kids of Calabar, Foundation pleads
A not-for-profit organisation, We The People Foundation (WTP) has called on Cross River State government to immediately stop the abuse of children in the state by implementing the State’s Child Rights Law that prohibits abuse of children.
The group in a petition that has attracted over 155 signatories against expected 200, urged the state to protect hundreds of abandoned street kids in Calabar, the state capital.
According to the group, many of these children in Calabar, some as young as eight years were branded witches and wizards by their families, and then thrown into the streets, where they’re abused, sexually exploited, and some have died of neglect.
It stressed that over 500 young girls and boys live on the streets, where they build makeshift houses at the central dumpsite at the outskirts of Calabar.
“To survive, they pick from trash, perform menial jobs, beg, steal or prostitute.
“The majority have not had a day of education, have never seen a doctor or taken medicines. When they fall ill, they depend on luck to survive, several of them just collapse and die when their tiny bodies can no longer bear the pressure and neglect.
“When this happens, the kids dig graves on empty plots where they perform burial rites themselves.
“These kids dot the Calabar landscape. They band together at recreation parks, street corners, shopping malls, fast food outlets, ATM cashpoints and anywhere they believe they can extract a bit of charity from the public.
“Their tattered clothing, haggard looks and unkempt appearance stand them out easily from the more sophisticated Calabar ambience.
“At night, they move to Atekong Drive and ‘Bogobiri’ where they freely mix with the red-light district crowd, gulping leftover beer and food, washing plates for a fee and generally mingling with the adult crowd.
“They hang around the Mary Slessor roundabout, where they offer to watch parked cars in return for handouts.
“In the early hours of the morning, they retire to sheds in dark alleyways, bus stops, pavements and roadside shops,” the group noted.
According to the group, a 2010 survey revealed that in some areas, up to 85per cent of street children were out of their homes on account of witchcraft branding.
“ Many street children in Calabar carry scars of their torture and horrific tales of their experience at the hands of exorcists.
“They are also known to have been branded with hot metals, chained to trees for days, stripped and marinated in hot pepper or whipped continually until they break,” he added.
The group said the phenomenon continues despite the existence of an ineffectual Child Right Law in the state, specifically established to address the abuse of children.
It said: “While the government denies and deflect blame, the fact remains that children are growing up on the streets of Calabar without any support from family, society or government; without morals, care or concern and without skills, learning or opportunities.
“ Faced with circumstances beyond their making and control, many of them have adopted lives of drugs, crime and prostitution. Without any government effort to take them off the streets, wean them off drugs and provide them an education, they face an uncertain future full of pervasion and unbridled hate. Their vengeance on society can only be imagined.”