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Nowhere to go: Street children cope with isolation orders

To control the spread of the novel Coronavirus, countries around the world have asked its people to stay inside to practice social distancing. Social distancing involves keeping space (6 feet is recommended by the CDC) between yourself and other people outside your home, avoiding large groups, mass gatherings and crowded places. 

The recommendation to social distance presents an ironic situation for homeless children whose livelihoods depend on working and living on the street. Isolation orders, quarantines and lockdowns strip street children of their already grim sources of survival. 

When the streets are empty and businesses are closed, street children are unable to find work or food for themselves or their siblings. They are unable to beg or steal from sellers at open markets. They are unable to turn to local shelters for basic services. 

Many street children are being chased away by community members who once offered them a place to sleep or an occasional small meal. Zoe children who once lived on the street recall these random acts of kindness as their primary source of hope, their reason to keep pushing forward. Now that has also been taken away.  

In some countries, government authorities have ramped up the consequences for street children who fail to self-isolate even though they don’t have a home to do so. In fear of being detained in prison, some street children have gone into hiding, further severing their access to essential services, shelters and medical support. 

Now more than ever, children who lack shelter and/or an adult caretaker are vulnerable to abuse, violations, hunger and illness. 

In recent weeks, Zoe Empowers Zimbabwe staff have taken it upon themselves to relocate as many as 18 street children to a safe shelter and advocate for emergency resources on their behalf to local churches in Zimbabwe. As a result, many of the local Zimbabwe churches have pulled together to support the children until the quarantine is lifted.

This is just one example of local groups working together to provide street children with their basic human rights to a safe space to self-isolate and access to information, water and sanitation. But, there are hundreds of thousands of other street children still suffering and will continue to suffer for as long as this pandemic persists. 

We know Zoe children are equipped with the knowledge and skills to weather this storm because we’ve already witnessed them shifting their businesses to help those who are less fortunate. They’ve reported to us that they are stockpiling food and leveraging their diverse streams of income.

As soon as Zoe Empowers staff are given the go-ahead, we will return to the field. We are prepared to see another level of desperation and a significant increase in the number of children who need support. 

We must be ready with enough pledges to get new empowerment groups started immediately. Right now through June 15, 2020, if you partner with a full- or half-empowerment group, your pledge will be matched with a second group giving up to 200 young people a chance at life! For more information, contact Gaston Warner at gaston.warner@zoeempowers.org.

How many children can you give hope with lasting sustainable change?

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