by crossriverwatch admin
Homelessness influences every facet of a child’s life, from conception to young adulthood. The experience of homelessness inhibits the physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and behavioural development of children through to adulthood.
Migration from rural areas is the main driving force of expanding city homelessness. As a result, homeless communities are made up of varied age groups, ethnic origins and languages. Being denied the same rights as other city dwellers can cause further tensions between social groups.
The impact of homelessness begins well before the child is born. The majority of homeless parents are single women, many who themselves were homeless as children. Homeless women face many obstacles to healthy pregnancies, such as chronic and acute health problems, and lack of prenatal care and in some instance in big cities there face obstacles like drug and chemical abuse.
Children of homeless parents are more likely to be of low birth weight and are at greater risk of death, risk of exposure to environmental factors and the risk of even selling their children to the highest bidder, poor access to health care and essential immunisations.
Homeless children have significant developmental delays, which are believed to influence later behavioural and emotional problems in their adult life. Homeless children are often separated from their parents, which can cause long term psychological problems, like developmental delays and are prone to suffer from emotional difficulties. Homelessness affects social, physical and academic lives. This group are simply at risk
Women and children often bear the brunt of problems associated with homelessness. Women and children in Cross River state are burdened with fetching and carrying water over long distances, and caring for sick family members leaving them little time for education or to make a living.
In cities where sanitation facilities are poor or non-existent, going to the toilet at night or in the early morning puts women at risk of rape and sexual harassment. Hazardous conditions in homeless slums lead to the spread of deadly illness and disease. Illnesses like cholera, malaria and diarrhoea are prevalent in many slums. Diarrhoea kills 1.5 million children under five each year; it is the leading killer of children under five in Nigeria today.
Homeless women and children are unrecognised, ignored and excluded. People living in homeless slums are often unrecognised and ignored by governments, excluding them from city development plans, voting and full protection through the law. This denies them the rights and voice that other citizens have, which in turn can lead to social exclusion.
Our pressure is for the government of Cross River state to improve water supplies, toilets and sanitation which we know will help to reduce the spread of disease in our communities as well as those of the homeless. Through projects that improve housing conditions and access to toilets, improving access to decent toilets brings privacy and dignity for street and homeless dwellers.
Paulina Morphy Fogg is a Cross Riverian and health service provider living in Manchester, UK.
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