Young people living in street situations always suffer from untold physical and mental health issues. Hashtag Gulu carried out a survey with 50 (41 boys and 9 girls) street connected children and youths where only 32% of males and 56% of females interviewed were feeling healthy.
Furthermore, they expressed difficulties in accessing proper healthcare as they struggle with serious stigmatization by healthcare providers. As a result, they often resign themselves to self-medication with whatever they can find, frequently causing more harm than good. Overall, studies on SCCY show that several factors such as violence, nutrition, infectious diseases, risky sexual behaviors, substance abuse and stigmatization result in poorer health outcomes among them.
These factors threaten their chances of being reintegrated into their community/family and put them at risk of unwanted pregnancy, long-lasting health complications and premature death in the worst cases. The study also revealed that almost all young persons who are homeless have been exposed to violence at home and/or on the street. This often leads to psychological trauma that only get worse if left untreated, as well as the uptake of negative coping mechanism such as alcohol and substance abuse. SCCY often have very limited knowledge on where to seek proper healthcare services and health-related knowledge in general. Their lack of trust in other people further impedes their willingness and ability to receive physical and mental treatment when needed. While programs such as the vocational trainings are important to provide SCCY with skills for them to find a job/generate an income, tackling physical and mental health issues is essential and necessary.
In partnership with St. Phillips Health Center, vivo international and Elephante Commons, we are implementing the “Improving the physical, mental well-being and sexual and reproductive health of street-connected children and youths in Gulu” project with the major aim of enhancing the right to health of street connected children and youths by increasing their access and utilization of physical and mental health care services.