Malawi children’s home turns into drug, prostitution hub

One of children homes in Blantyre city, Chimwemwe Children’s Centre has been earmarked for closure due to its continuous violation of child rights as it has turned into a breeding place for prostitutes and drug peddlers, Nyasa Times can reveal.

However, Blantyre City Council, despite recommendations from Blantyre District Health and Social Welfare offices to seal off the shelter, is failing to do so as the centre continues to violate set Child Rights and Social Welfare regulations.

Chimwemwe Children’s Centre, owned by Macdonald Nkhutabasa, offers shelter to street children of ages between 8 and 18 who, according to its policies, are allowed to stay at the Centre for less than a month before they are reintegrated back into their families and communities.

The Centre currently looks after 15 children-10 boys and 5 girls-out of 22 it integrated from the streets when it was opened several months ago.

These children are under hostile conditions at Chimwemwe Children’s Centre

Investigations

Nyasa Times investigations established that the Children’s Home is glossily violating the rights of the engaged children who are forced into prostitution apart from their exposure to drugs mainly Marijuana.

Marijuana and prostitution aside, the centre has failed to rehabilitate the children from street begging as most of them continue to flock the streets for cash handouts, the findings were verified by Blantyre City Council Social Welfare office.

Our investigations established that the Centre does not have qualified and enough matrons to take care of the children; the premise located almost 1 kilometer from Nancholi Total Filling Station, Blantyre is not conducive for a Children’s Home.

It was also found out that the children do not have proper and enough bedding as they sleep on the floor with some sharing a blanket, and that in most occasions they are forced to eat once a day.

In parallel interviews with some of the concerned children, Nyasa Times revealed that are forced to go back into street to beg as there is nobody at Centre to properly take care of children.

“Most of the times we are forced to cook food for ourselves. So in order to take care of ourselves we decided to come and beg in the street. Some of our friends have run away because of the hostile conditions we are experiencing at the Centre,” one of the children who spoke to Nyasa Times said.

Findings

After District Health Office and city social welfare officials inspected the shelter a month ago, it was concluded that the premise should be sealed off and the children be returned to their respective homes. They recommended that those who could not locate their parents, should be located to other children’s homes where they will be taken care off properly.

But in an interview, Blantyre City Council Social Welfare Officer, Pamela Boris admitted her office was failing to close down the Centre despite its continuous violation of child rights due to lack of transportation.

“The Centre will be sealed off once my office is provided with transport to ferry social welfare and Police officers who are supposed to do the job,” she said.

“We are supposed to revoke its license before closing it and that can not be done without involvement of Police. The Council is having transportation problems as most of our vehicles are engaged in other projects,” said Boris.

Boris bemoaned the current situation at the Centre, attributing the problems to lack of seriousness by the owner and failure to utilize donated funds for intended purpose.

“I understand the Centre was given about K3 million from its donors and the money was diverted into the owner’s personal bank account. And the place has no clinical officer as stipulated in the license to take of children’s health. In essence the place is not good to keep children.

“We have tried to talk with the owner so that the situation could be improved but nothing has been done so far. At first he was complaining of funding and now the funds are there, he is failing to work things out,” said Boris.

According to Boris, based on regulations any Children’s Home suppose to have its own clinical officer, enough matrons to look after the children, proper beddings, provide proper and enough food as well as clothing.

However, Nyasa Times revelations concurred with the Blantyre District Health and Social Welfare offices findings which have called for a closure of the premise.

Efforts to talk to Nkhutabasa proved futile as all his three contact numbers could not be reached since last week, and he has not responded to the email sent to him.

Boris also expressed concerns with the failure to get holds of Nkhutabasa.

“His numbers are out of reach. He sometimes use the ground phone, but that too is sometimes off line,” she said.

Chimwemwe Children’s Centre is a registered organization with registered certificate no. BT/SW/009/12. It is one of the centers integrating street children apart from Samaritan Trust and Steka.

Ban

Meanwhile,  government has revealed it will embark in a cleaning exercise to remove all children from street. The initiative comes following influx of street begging children in the country’s cities.

Principal Secretary (PS) for Gender, Children and Social Welfare, Dr. Mary Shawa told journalists in Lilongwe that her ministry had obtained a court order to carry out the exercise and that with effect from December 17, 2012, all perpetrators or irresponsible duty bearers of street begging would be arrested and charged according to the law.

Shawa said after a thorough research the ministry established that the streets expose children to numerous forms of abuse and trafficking hence criminalization of the tendency.

“Allowing children to be in the streets for purposes of either begging or escorting habitual beggars, is prohibited in Malawi,” said Shawa

Adding: “Child Care Protection and Justice Act 2010, provides that Subjecting a child to a social or customary practice that is harmful to the health or general development of the child is an offence.”

Shawa  warned that they would prosecute all parents and guardians who send their children on the streets to beg, saying police will do their work.

Chimwemwe Children’s Centre 

The children at Chimwemwe Children’s Centre

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