A crushed Christmas for ‘street children’

Children on a road in Kigali. Many had a bitter Christmas due to the heavy rains. Photo: File

Marius and Fils, 24 and 18 respectively, have grown up in a life of street children in Nyarugenge District.

Marius dropped out of school in 2015 before he joined street life, while Fils embarked on the toughest life when he was just 8 years old.

They met a year ago and have since become “homies”.

Just recently, they decided to abandon their street shelter and look for a better abode. Their hard-earned money would afford only them a house for which they paid a daily rent of Rwf300.

Their house was located in Kimisagara, a Kigali suburb.

That was their most outstanding achievement before the torrential rain on Christmas night came and swept the little house away.

As if not enough, the shop where Fils was employed as a porter was flooded.

“I have been saving to buy some clothes and buy my mother a chicken in Musanze district (where he comes from) because sometimes I manage to get Rwf1000 in a day. The Christmas was just okay until the rain came,” Fils sadly said.

For street children, the rain is more about just floods and shelter.

In a torn pair of shorts, ripped anorak blue jacket and shoes half the size of his feet, Moise is 14 and has been on the streets for five months now.

With a seemingly devastated hungry face, he narrates how it is hard for him to get food when the rain is too much.

“I can’t be hired for any work because I am under 18. I usually run small errands for people and get a little money for food. If it is raining, few people leave their homes and errands reduce. A day can pass by without any money,” he recounts.

In Kigali City, 68 houses, including Fils and Marius’s little shack, were swept away by the heavy rains. Let alone millions-worth things brushed by floods, 12 lives were lost.

Most street children that spoke to The New Times were worried about shelter and the harsh weather.

“What if the rain comes back?” one of them shouts. Which is likely because Rwanda Meteorology expects moderate rain that will eventually increase until December 28th.

The rain was caused by the abrupt turn of inter-tropical convergence zone that made a U-turn eastwards.

Fils and Marius share their worries with hundreds of children who live in informal kinship, outside their families.

“For us we are grown up and strong, we know some of the young children who get high time copping with harsh rains in terrible conditions,” Fils and Marius said.

In a press conference that congregated the City of Kigali, Ministries of Local Government, Infrastructure, Emergency Management, Rwanda National Police and Rwanda Meteorology, officials pleaded to invest more efforts in curbing this issue.

“We are providing primary shelter for people whose houses were destroyed, as we find ways of improving the water management system,” the mayor of the City of Kigali announces to the media.

He, however, added that people should take charge of their lives by evacuating from high-risk zones and follow public warnings regarding the weather.

In October this year, weathermen warnings were going viral as they were expecting downpours in East Africa region, including Rwanda, until January or February 2020.


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