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The wandering kids of Sierra Leone 

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Ada and Sama are brothers. They both lost their mom early January 2021. Ada is 11 years old and Sama 14 years old. Since their mom left them, even though they still have their dad, they have been pretty much left by themselves. 

I met both boys while staying in Mambo, Sierra Leone. Everyday, they would come to my house and beg for food. 

Ada and Sama’s cases are not rare here in Sierra Leone. A lot of children are unfortunately left by themselves and neglected. Either because, like in their case, their parents are dead or not able to look after them due to personal reasons or in most cases, extreme poverty. 

Ada and Sama’s dad is still around and living in a slum house that doesn’t have space for his two sons. He has drinking problems that prevent him from looking or caring for their sons. He often disappears for days before coming back home. 

Every night, the 2 boys have to struggle to find a place to sleep. Fortunately for them, they have the support of their community that helps look after them and allow them to sleep in their house. They often have to sleep in separate households. 

Some nights, they sleep with their aunt who is not able to fully look after them but is able to offer them a safe place to sleep. Some other nights, Sama, the older, sleeps with a grown up man in the community, Musa, who supports him. Something Sama gets to assist him with his work to make some money to be able to buy some food.

Both boys have been through so much trauma. From losing their mom to having to fight everyday to find food. 

They have both been enrolled in government school but most of the time do not attend. And they have nobody to check whether or not they attend. Even though the community around them try their best to look after them, most moms helping also have children of their own and don’t have the means to look after them full time as they are already struggling to look after their own family. 

Unfortunately for Africa, and for reasons such as extreme poverty, exploitation, and having to rebuild itself from the oppression of the West, it currently has the highest rates of child neglect in the world, with 41.8 percent of girls and 39.1 percent of boys being neglected by their caregivers according to the African Partnership to End Violence against Children (APEVAC). New data collected by them also showed that violence against children was rising across the continent. It also found that rates of physical, sexual and psychological violence have grown due to the pandemic and current ongoing humanitarian emergencies.

Children in Africa are suffering. Growing up without a father and mother is the sad reality for 15 million children in sub-Saharan Africa. And many have no family to look after them.

Wandering kids, a term referring to children neglected and with delinquent inclinations who are living rough in the streets, are many in Sierra Leone. You can see them walking in groups, often begging, sometimes stealing. 

The link between poverty, economic hardship and child neglect and abuse is complex but yet undeniable. 

Although many international and local organisations are trying to offer more support for wandering kids, to take more kids out of the streets and accompany them in their life, a lot of children in Sierra Leone remain left on their own. 

For Ada and Sama the future remains unsure. Hopefully, with the support of their community, they can stay in school and maybe find a foyer that could accept them. 

“I hope we find a family that could adopt us both,” says Sama. 

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