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DATE=1/6/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=STREET CHILDREN IN ETHIOPIA PART III NUMBER=5-45190 BYLINE=HILLETEWORK MATHIAS DATELINE=WASHINGTON D.C. CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Non-governmental organizations are making a significant contribution to the alleviation of some of the problems of street children in Ethiopia. But many agree that they alone cannot solve such fundamental urban problems. They need strong support and cooperation from the Ethiopian government and the general public. In his third, and last, report of a series on Street Children in Ethiopia, V-O-A's Hilletework Mathias reports on what is being done by Ethiopian policy makers to tackle the problems of street children in the Horn of African country. TEXT: Ethiopia is one of the signatories of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and its constitution also protects the rights of children. As a step toward facing its responsibilities, Ethiopia's government is conducting a campaign through state-run media to make the public aware of the true nature of the problems facing children. Officials say Ethiopia's central government is also helping regional administrations to effectively address social problems, such as street children. Mengiste Ayele is a team leader for children issues in the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. /// MENGISTE ACT /// According to the new structure, regions are responsible to identify and mitigate different social problems in their environment. At the federal level, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is giving technical assistance in different forms, so those regions can mitigate different problems found in their respective regions. The ministry has a good working relationship with different child-oriented N-G-O's (non-government organizations) that are giving different services to street children. /// END OF ACT /// In the past, the government had a separate agency called - the Children's Commission -- that was in charge of children issues. But under a government- restructuring program, the commission became a department within the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Some N-G-O's say this was a wrong move. Minas Hiruy is the executive director Hope enterprise -- an Ethiopian group that provides food, council, and training to street children. /// MINAS ACT /// Children need an agency of their own that can speak for them, that can protect them. Right now, we really do not have an agency that has the policy clout, the authority that really stands on the side of children and do much. Yes, in the past we used to have the Children Commission. Now we have a Children Department. The commission in the past was more powerful. It was during that time so much was done for children. A lot of orphanages were set up, a lot of children care operations were invited into the country and there was much for children. Now that kind of effort has subsided, although there is still concern for children, particularly in the area of child rights. /// END OF ACT /// Another N-G-O group involved in promoting the causes of street children in the Horn-of-Africa country is Forum for Street Children in Ethiopia. Executive Director Dawit Woldemariam agrees with Mr. Minas that street kids need an organization of their own. /// DAWIT ACT /// Restructuring of the children commission is a disadvantage for most of us who are working with street children. I agree with some of the N-G-O's who are saying we should have a vocal organization because we are looking to the young generation. Forty-five- percent of the population is below [age] 15 and we are looking at the serious issues of AIDS pandemic, which more and more orphan children are going to be in, in Ethiopia. This situation should be given more focus. Lack of focal organization at the ministerial level is a very problematic situation for us and I agree with them [other N-G-Os]. /// END OF ACT /// But Mr. Mengiste defends the restructuring of the commission, saying the issue of street children is still being given the same attention. /// MENGISTE ACT /// I think this has happened because of the new restructuring policy of the government in a way to give more responsibilities to relevant bodies. All responsibilities, which used to be given to the commission and to the organization, are still here with the department. /// END OF ACT /// Bureaucratic red tape is another issue N-G-O's cite as a problem in their efforts to help street children. They say the whole legal process is slow, and fulfilling the formalities for clearance to proceed with a program sometimes takes as long as a year. Mr. Dawit says the bureaucracy is not efficient. /// DAWIT ACT /// Sometimes the rules and procedures are beyond the capacities of the ministries. If you look at some of the ministries, where they look at the proposals, revise the proposal, there are only one or two people. They are not computerized. So if 10, 12, 15, or 20 proposals overflow them, they are unable to do it properly. /// END OF ACT /// His colleague, Mr. Minas, appeals to the government to streamline the registration process. /// MINAS ACT // What I would suggest, particularly for our lawmakers, is to make it enhancing for all of us to be involved in this with the least of hassles, so that with everyone doing what we can we can impact the problem in a drastic way. Otherwise, the way things are going right now, with only 300 N-G-Os being involved, we simply just [touch] the surface, not really have an effective impact in curbing the problem. /// END OF ACT /// Team leader Mengiste does not deny such an assertion, and says the government is doing its best to simplify rules and regulations regarding the N-G-O's. /// MENGISTE ACT /// We hear from some N-G-O's that the process to be registered and legalized by the relevant government organizations is a bit long. On the other hand, there are still different efforts being made to minimize this process. From the government side, we need also to see very carefully different stations. Because there could be also some N-G-O's which are unable to address the problems of different target groups. Different misuse of funds has also been seen by a few N-G-O's. In order to protect such things, the government should take care of this delicate situation very carefully. /// END OF ACT /// Street kids are forced to spend their productive years on the streets in demeaning and degrading ways. The problem is not expected to go away soon in one of the poorest countries on earth. But many remain hopeful Ethiopia's collective efforts to address the issue will eventually provide a lasting solution to one of the country's many problems. (SIGNED) NEB/HM/ENE/RAE 07-Jan-2000 08:52 AM EDT (07-Jan-2000 1352 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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