Local Governance

Children in street situations in Harare, an ever-growing social problem

By Fungai Matarise

For the longest time, children have found habitation in the streets. In a utopia, this would never be an occurrence. However, like many parts of the world, Zimbabwe faces an acute problem of children in street situations. Normally labelled “street kids’’. Furthermore, an increasing number of children end up on the streets because of the various challenges due to exposure. These include abandonment and poverty (among others). This is according to researchers.

The plight of children in street situations in Harare.

Furthermore, in Harare, children in street situations are viewed with disdain. Possibly because of their unkempt outward appearance coupled with their devious acts of stealing and substance abuse. Moreso, these children are amongst the most marginalised children. UNICEF’s 2020-2030 concept note on guidance posits that these children experience severe violations of their rights. This is before and during their time on the streets. 

Additionally, children in street situations face with multiple deprivations. These include lack of access to basic services, violence, abuse and neglect. Also, they face exploitation, as well as vulnerabilities to alcohol and substance abuse. Sadly, these negative traits overshadow who the child is to begin with and what drove them to the streets. 

Furthermore, a brief and sober reflection into the life of children in street situations undoubtedly shows that need assistance. This is due to the nature of hardships they encounter at such tender ages.

In 2023, the Zimbabwe Republic Police revealed that children in street situations were falling victim to gruesome murders. This was by a serial killer in the Harare Central Business District. According to the police, Thandolwenkosi Ndlovu specifically targeted “street kids” while they were sleeping on the streets of Harare. His modus operandi was both shocking and gruesome. 

Even though most of his victims were mostly homeless adults, it is apparent that the streets are an unsafe space, for anyone who lives there. One must question why Ndlovu targeted the homeless and the answers that come to mind are because most of them are neglected. Also, the lack of strong family ties contributes to this.  Evidently, children in street situations can possibly be victims of such heinous crimes due to the lack of protection and security on the streets.

Recommendations for action

UNICEF suggests a broad framework for global, local and people action. This includes engagement and participation of children and young people, as well as concerted effort from different UN agencies. The UNICEF concept note on Transformative Action for children in street situations discusses the need to achieve sustainable results for children in five action areas. Furthermore, these are particularly focusing on, but not limited to, “street kids”. Also, social policy targeted on helping them can help better their lives.

The five action areas are as follows:

  1. Enhance social protection, end poverty and prevent family–child separation.
  2. Strengthen child protection policies, programmes and services.
  3. Improve educational outcomes of children and skills development.
  4. Invest in evidence-building.
  5. Focus on cities and local governments.


Finally, children in street situations are vulnerable, they face the worst forms of hardships. They end up assuming pseudo-adult status as they navigate their deplorable experiences in the streets. UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children (2005) shows that globally, millions of children live their lives impoverished. Also, they are uneducated, abandoned, discriminated against, malnourished, neglected and vulnerable. Life is a daily struggle for them to survive and they face exclusion from essential services such as hospitals and schools. Therefore, it is imperative to provide the essential social services that will transform the lived realities of children in street situations.

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