Main Article Content
Background: Children being on the street for various reasons is a worldwide problem with the phenomenon being more prominent in low- and middle-income countries. Street children exist in categories known as street living children, street working children and street family children.
Objective: This study aims to assess factors and challenges associated with street children in Port Harcourt metropolis (Nigeria).
Method: A descriptive cross-sectional study design was used for this study. Three hundred and twenty street children aged less than 18 years were recruited purposively using the snow balling technique. Quantitative data using a questionnaire was obtained from 320 respondents while qualitative data using an in-depth interview guide was obtained from 15 respondents from the total sample size. Analysis of collected data was done using SPSS version 23 with results displayed in frequency tables. Qualitative data were analyzed using thematic process with data being coded and related themes identified.
Results: Findings revealed that street children (70.8%) were on the street to support their family income. Half (51.3%) were oppressed on the street. Smoking was reported by 3(0.9%), hard drug use by 2(0.6%) and early sexual practices by 13(4.1%). One hundred and fifty-nine (49.7%) coped by avoiding unsafe places, 22(7.0%) were employed while 298(93.0%) who were unemployed had majority 266(89.2%) selling sachet water. Many 234(73.0%) made less than ₦1,000 ($2.74) daily. Qualitative report showed that street children were neglected and they were exposed to many dangers and coped with street life by avoiding unsafe places and selling.
Conclusion & Recommendation: Street children were mainly on the street engaging themselves in activities aimed at supporting their family low income. They were exposed to numerous dangers like accidents, rape, abuse, admission into street criminal networks and others. Street children exhibited violent and risky behaviors which had a negative influence on their existence. They strived to survive by hawking snacks, sachet drinking water and avoiding unsafe places. It is therefore necessary for Government and other major stakeholders to provide public programs like fee basic education, feeding programs and vocational centers for neglected and vulnerable children in the society. Government and Non-Governmental Organizations need to establish homes for neglected and abandoned children so they can have shelter and access other programs aimed at making them attain their full potentials in life.