More beds and facilities:Center for homeless children expands [Archives:2005/817/Community]

February 18 2005

By Peter Willems
Yemen Times Staff

The Safe Childhood Center is moving into a new building in Sana'a this week to help the institute assist more homeless children.

The new center, which received funding from the Social Fund for Development, will allow the institute to expand on its daily activities for children and let more of the homeless stay overnight: The number of beds will increase from 30 to 150.

“The new building will be four times bigger than the one we have been using which will give us many more advantages to helping homeless children,” said Wadah Shugaa Al-Deen, Deputy Director and Financial Manager at Safe Childhood Center. “Our beds are now always full. It will be much better having 150 beds, and there will be room to have more in the future.”

According to a study carried out by United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Ministry of Social Affairs, approximately 28,000 children in Yemen are homeless, with 4,000 in the capital. There are as many as two million working children in Yemen today. Most of them are able to go home at night, but the homeless have to live on the streets.

The Safe Childhood Center offers homeless children basic education, vocational training, healthcare and social and psychological care if they are affected by unstable homes or by living on the street. It also has a policy to allow homeless children to come and be fed, have a safe place to sleep and leave when they want to. Once a week the center sends out a team late at night and offers a number of homeless children to stay at the center.

The goal of the center is to try and get the children to return to their families, but if living with their families is not possible, the institute will let them stay permanently.

“Our goal is to return them to their families and reintegrate them into society,” said Aisha Moharem, Director of Safe Childhood Center. “If they cannot live with their families, we keep them here. If it is not safe to be at home, they would end up on the street again.”

Moharem said that the larger building will let the center divide the homeless children who are staying temporarily and permanently, which will allow the staff to focus more on the children's needs. There will also be a designated area for homeless girls.

One cause of children living on the street in Yemen is the large number of families living in poverty. A recent United Nations report said that more than 45% of the 19 million Yemenis live on less than $2 a day. Some of the children go to cities to try and help support their families. The Safe Childhood Center has also found that some of the homeless children have left home because of violence and abuse in the families.

The Safe Childhood Center was established in Sana'a two and a half years ago. Last July, the Saleh Social Foundation for Development took over running the center.

“We feel that we are stronger than before,” said Shugaa Al-Deen. “We know we will continue under the Saleh Foundation. They are good to work with, and they are supporting us positively.”

Last month, the European Commission offered to provide Yemen with $2.53 million ($3.3 million) to assist Yemeni groups seen in need of humanitarian aid. Along with developing projects to help people in rural areas, shanty towns in Sana'a and Taiz and a camp on the southern coast housing refugees from Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia, the European Commission will support building centers in Sana'a where 650 homeless children will be allowed to stay and receive basic education.