COMMUNITY Development Minister Doreen Mwamba says no street kid tested positive for COVID-19 when some of them were tested about a month ago.
In an interview, however, Mwamba, revealed that some tested positive for some sexually transmitted diseases.
“These children, after screening them, interviewing them, we found out that they are also highly diseased not only maybe COVID, no. During the testing, we did not get anybody with COVID but with sexually transmitted diseases, TBs and the like. Some of them are being treated, and the girls we picked, we couldn’t even let them continue to stay on the streets, they were placed in homes for safety around Lusaka. They are very exposed. As you are aware, they live in clusters and are always on the move, they are coming into contact with motorists. When we were doing (testing) we didn’t find anybody amongst the ones we tested. We have maybe about 100 and 150. On the tests we conducted about a month ago, there was nobody with COVID,” she said.
And Mwamba said her ministry would not provide COVID-19 preventive materials to street kids but would instead remove them from the streets to safe places where such materials would be provided.
“It is not to give them masks and ask them to go back on the streets. We are removing them and when we remove them, we have put all those requirements that they will need like the hand sanitizer, soaps, things like that. We will not distribute any masks to them on the streets, that the ministry will not do. When the budget was being prepared, the child department was not sitting in my Ministry, it was with Youths and Sports. So now, we have this problem and it is the ministry to handle. So we are just about to conclude and you will see activity taking place around the children,” she said.
Mwamba said there were over 700,000 street kids on the streets.
“A month ago, we conducted a visitation and trip just to appreciate the problems before us of children living on the streets. So we went on to the streets of Lusaka where we learnt that there are over 700, 000 children living on the streets. For the first time, we didn’t want to talk about them without them. We invited the leaders to the Ministry and we sat with them in the boardroom. They were shocked by that gesture because it has never happened. According to them, they are just considered as a problem without getting to know why they are on the streets,” said Mwamba.
“During the visitations on the streets, we discovered that not everyone lives in the streets, they do have homes with parents and they do go back to those homes. We went further to interview the parents as to why they allow school-going children to go on the streets. Some of them were vulnerable and so we are in the process of counseling them and putting them in social protection programmes as long as they guarantee that when they are put on those programmes, they will hold on to their children at home.”