Online Program

No one home: Village narratives regarding street children in western Kenya

Monday, November 4, 2013

Alison Aronstam, Pomona College, Claremont, CA
Zachary Kwena, MA, Kenyan Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Kisumu, Kenya
Faith M'mbone, BA, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kisumu, Kenya
Jessica Lin, MPH, Division of Adolescent Medicine, UCSF, San Francisco, CA
Elizabeth Bukusi, MD, MPH, PGD, PHD, Centre for Microbiology Research, Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Nairobi, Kenya
Colette Auerswald, MD, MS, Division of Adolescent Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Background: Our 2010 pilot study of street children in Kisumu, Kenya revealed that many youth come from the nearby rural Luanda District. We examine how members of Luandan communities perceive the phenomena of street children with the goal of informing future interventions. Methods: We conducted 21 semi-structured interviews and 5 focus groups with community leaders, service providers, and community members (total n= 69) from 4 villages in Luanda and surrounding areas. Analysis employed grounded theory. Results: Informants attest that many children lose parents to death, family turmoil or neglect and are raised by extended family. These youth often fend for themselves at funerals or marketplaces before moving to the street. Responsibility over youth becomes increasingly ambiguous as the youth move further from their families. Though informants criticize parents and caregivers for being abusive and/or negligent of their children, they also state that many guardians are overwhelmed by poverty. Though informants report that community members once felt a sense of shared responsibility for all local youth, recent hardships, particularly related to HIV-related deaths of productive adults, have forced adults to prioritize their own families. Luandan street children are considered to be the “problem” of the policemen, aid workers and others outside the village. By the time youth reach the city streets, they have left not only the village bounds but also the community consciousness. Conclusion: Though every member of the community traditionally shares responsibility for youth, recent hardships have led to neglect. Ultimate responsibility for street children is left largely unclaimed.

Learning Areas:

Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Diversity and culture
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Analyze how street youth living in Kisumu, Kenya are perceived in their communities of origin. Describe how members of villages in the Luanda district of Kenya attribute responsibility for homeless youth.

Keyword(s): Homelessness, Adolescents, International

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked as a research assistant on projects related to youth homelessness since June 2012. Under the mentorship of Dr. Colette Auerswald, I have studied the phenomena of youth homelessness in both California and Kenya. My primary focus as a research assistant has been to analyze transcripts of interviews about community perceptions of street youth. I will present another aspect of this research at the 2013 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine conference.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.