UNODC and Partners support Senegal to get street children home during COVID-19


DAKAR More than 500 children have been taken off the streets in Senegal and returned to their families as a safeguarding measure against the Covid 19 pandemic thanks to coordinated efforts between UNODC, USAID and the ministry of Family and Child Protection.

The regional United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is working closely with the government of Senegal to protect the country’s street children from the impact of the deadly coronavirus in line with UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call for urgent action to support the world’s children amid the universal crisis. 

“With the pandemic placing so many of the world’s children in jeopardy, I reiterate my urgent appeal: let us protect our children and safeguard their well-being,” said the UN chief.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Senegal the Government declared a State of Emergency, suspended all gatherings and installed a curfew by presidential decree to protect the population and stop the spread of the virus.

Thousands of children in many of Senegal’s traditional Quranic schools live in conditions of extreme squalor, deprived of adequate food and medical care. Known as talibés, they are often forced to beg on the streets. 

The authorities, national stakeholders, UNODC and partners launched an identification process to locate children in need in Dakar through foot patrols organized by NGOs, to facilitate either family reunification or the placement of children in transit shelters or alternative families within the community.

So far around 500 children have been removed from the streets or Koranic schools and placed in child services housing centres for 14 days and tested for Covid-19 before their return to their families. 

Talibés children begging on the streets in Dakar

Furthermore, available child protection services at the national level have been mapped and operational committees at the departmental level, under the auspices of the prefects, were put in place to coordinate the identification and assistance to child beggars and street children.

UNODC, with the financial support of USAID and Monaco who are contributing to UNODC’s ongoing anti-trafficking in persons projects in Senegal, delivered the first batch of equipment and basic necessities to the Ministry in order to facilitate the identification of street children and provide assistance and emergency care before returning each child to its family.

“We thank UNODC for their work in the district municipalities in tackling the forced begging of talibé children,” said Mame Ngor Diouf, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Family and Child Protection, and thanked UNODC’s speed and responsiveness in meeting the needs expressed by the Ministry.

Talibés children in Senegal face problems of unbridled abuse and exploitation despite a 2005 law prohibiting forced begging and trafficking, and provisions in the penal code criminalizing all deliberate physical abuse and neglect of children.

With the support of Monaco, UNODC will also provide small grants to three local NGOs for the identification and assistance of child victims during the same period. All identified children will be transported by bus back to their families of origin with the support of USAID.

List of material handed over to the Ministry of Family and Child Protection:

  20 x Non-contact infrared forehead thermometer
  20 x cartons of 500ML antiseptic gel bottles
  1000 x cloth masks  
  10 tons of rice
  100 litres of oil
  5 tons of sugar
  500 x 500g milk carton
  1000 x 500g pieces of soap