Age 10 and a drug addict

Drugs are another huge problem for street children. I was reading over some reports from our projects in Nigeria today, and it struck me just how many of the children used drugs during their time on the streets, and that this can be such a difficult thing to deal with. It’s not hard to see why this happens. When I think about some of the things these children have had to witness and experience: using drugs to blot it out or to try and forget is completely understandable.

Most of the cases we’ve seen are of children sniffing glue, or smoking ‘hemp’ (marijuana). Though much harder drugs out there, because Nigeria is a transit route for heroin and cocaine being trafficked to Europe. Because many street children end up involved in the drugs trade, they have access to these drugs. There’s not much in terms of support for users in Nigeria, and it’s very hard, if not impossible, for a street child to access what little is available.

One boy from our shelter Richard is back on the streets again – for the tenth time now. He’s fifteen and been living on the streets since he was four. He’s been in and out of our shelter for nearly five years, but keeps going back to the streets, because that’s where he can find drugs.

We help children into drug rehab programmes, but we don’t allow the children in the shelter to do drugs – and for some the addiction is just too much. I am scared and upset when I think what might happen to him, although at least he knows where to come to for help. And he will be welcome whenever he wants to come back.

It makes me angry too. If someone had helped him when he was four, if he had a safe place to go, he wouldn’t be in this position now.

But then there are boys like Patrick.

Patrick was living on the streets, heavily using drugs, aged just 10. Both his parents were dead, and he was staying with his grandfather – until he was accused of witchcraft and ended up on the streets. I know when he first came into our street child shelter he found it really tough because he couldn’t use drugs any more. But now, in recovery, we get lots of updates of just how happy and lively he is and finally living a life all children should be able to have – one free of violence, danger and addiction.

Patrick is adamant he want to become a lawyer. His school grades are excellent and with the determination he’s shown so far I have no hesitation in believing that will become a reality.

Hearing stories like Patrick’s and Richards makes me determined to never stop fighting to help these children. They’ve had enough people giving up on them – we wont!