Jolien Veldwijk – Peacebuilding Initiatives Rotating Header Image

Street Children in Juba: a new hype.

I am still recovering from the horrific things I have seen today. Of course you often hear stories about children who live on garbage dumps in big cities in developing countries. But to actually see it with your own eyes and hear their stories, it is heart breaking.

Through one of my friends here in Juba I heard about a Ugandan lady who singlehandedly started a centre to feed, dress and teach street children in Juba. After seeing some of the street children I wanted to meet this lady myself. She picked us up this afternoon and took us to a garbage dump, previously a graveyard (although the graves are still there) and showed us where the children live. It is unbelievable. The truth is more painful than you see on TV. Children as young as six our seven years old live in cardboard boxes on garbage. During the day they search the dump for anything they can eat and sell. If they find anything, they will buy glue in the afternoon to get high and forget about all their fears, worries and needs. However, the glue makes them very aggressive and they often get into more trouble because of it.

The day seems somewhat manageable. But then the night falls. Men enter the little children’s village on the compound to look for girls and boys to defile, abuse, rape and molest. Children as young as six are taken brutally.

During our ‘tour’, Cathy (the Ugandan lady) tells us passionately about why the children end up on the street even though they still have parents. There never used to be any street children in Juba. Cathy tells us how they are a new ‘hype’ after the war. Even though some of the parents live in shacks between the garbage dump and the market, they often don’t even know who their children are, as their minds are completely gone because of alcohol and drugs abuse.

Cathy took us to her centre where we met Sabila. She is the youngest in the group to have been molested. She is seven years old, and she was raped until she was completely damaged on the inside. I saw photos of her bleeding in the car. This tiny little girl with her big eyes. How can she ever smile again?

Three other girls have been raped by the father of one of them. Evidence and statements have been given to the police. But the man still works in the garage next door and he continues to have an incestuous relationship with his 11-year old daughter and her 8-year old sister. He still has not been arrested. I provided Cathy with names and contact details of people who work for Mirayah FM (the largest radio station in South Sudan, run by the UN) and South Sudan TV, with little hope that media attention will change the situation.

When the girls become older, around the age of 12, they realize that they can actually ask money for being abused. They move to what is commonly known as The Bridge. It is the area around the biggest bridge in Juba that crosses the Nile and girls can rent rooms there to prostitute themselves. They have no emotions left, they are emotionally and spiritually murdered by everyone who abused them; by the tough life that street children have in Juba, by the men who have sexually molested them, by the glue they sniffed to forget their troubles.

Even though the girls cannot sleep yet at the centre, because the centre is technically Cathy’s house, one of the many churches has donated a piece of land where she can build a centre with dormitories, classrooms, play gardens, a safe haven for the girls, away from a life of rape and abuse.

But a lot is needed. The area that was donated is part of the dump, and you will find a lot of trash, garbage, dirty needles, etc there. First of all the area needs to be cleaned and fenced off. Then the building can begin. Cathy needs a team of builders, construction material, a therapist, teachers, and whatever else we can give her.

I will start doing some fundraising when I am back. But meanwhile, please go to the website and see how you can help: http://www.confidentchildren.org/

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