Homeless children in Arusha, Tanzania, face a daily battle to survive. Jess McCabe reports on the steps organisations are making to support them
Homeless children in the Tanzanian city of Arusha face a daily battle to survive. Jess McCabe reports on the small steps some organisations are making to support them, and where possible, reunite them with their families
Sixteen-year-old Lenard Baraka grips the air above his head. He is miming how, four years ago, he slipped under a car, grabbed onto the chassis and held on, upside down. He doesn’t remember how long the trip took, but it was ‘very far’. This was how Lenard ran away from home at 12 years old, and the means of his difficult passage to the city of Arusha.
‘I was living happily with my family,’ he says, speaking in Swahili through a translator. ‘I woke up one morning and my parents separated. My mother left and we stayed with our father. He decided to get married to another woman. She beat us up, and all that. I decided to leave.’
He arrived in Arusha, a city of 1.6 million people, bustling with tourists, sitting in the foothills of Mount Meru, close to Kilimanjaro and famous nature reserves. The city is also a magnet for homeless children such as Lenard, leaving behind abusive families, abandoned or in poverty, and attracted by the promise of the big city. But the streets of Arusha are no more paved with gold than London’s.
In 2009, Tanzania’s parliament passed the Law of the Child Act, which guarantees children certain rights. UNICEF explains: ‘If a child’s parents die, and there are no other relatives to care for the child, or if a child is neglected, abandoned or abused by their parents, the state should ensure they have a safe place to stay.’ But in Arusha this ideal is far from the reality.