According to UNICEF (2002-2011) and Kenya VACS statistics (2010), children living in urban and rural settings of Kilifi county (67.7% of the population according to Kilifi County Development Profile) are affected by major problems such as early marriage (26% of children under 18); child labour (26% of children aged 5 to 14 years); low school children’s attendance (72% boys and 75% girls for primary and 40% boys and 42% girls for secondary); sexual violence (32% female, 17.5% male) and early pregnancies; child trafficking from rural to urban settings; physical violence (66% girls, 73% boys); emotional violence (25.8% girls, 31.9% boys); alcohol and drug abuse (mostly in towns).
The root of the problems mentioned above is the interrelation among the following socio, cultural and economic issues:
Parental Neglect: parents, especially in rural areas, don’t give enough value to their children, trying to understand their needs and listening to their voices. They leave most of the times children alone, while they look for jobs or food. Diffusion of polygamous and broken families (average family members is 5.4 per hh) and poor economic and cultural living conditions (alcohol dependency of men, sex workers working at home, etc.) are issues that don’t give to the parents the moral authority to guide their children. The orphans (especially caused by the HIV pandemics) and abandoned children are the most vulnerable as they lack in proper parenting care.
Poverty and limited economic opportunities: Despite the development of the tourist industry in Malindi and the presence of the salt mines in Magarini, the two districts remain among the poorest areas in Kenya (in Kilifi county approximately 65% of the population is living below poverty line, significantly above the National average of 56%). Parents and guardians are sometimes forced into harmful or negative economic and cultural activities which are not good examples for their children. To cope with the high level of poverty, they also send their children to look for job. In 2005 Magarini and Malindi constituencies were ranked 189th and 139th out of 210 constituencies in the national poverty indexes.
Harmful cultural practices influencing on a gender base the way children are treated.
Low adult education. Illiterate parents (32% of Kilifi county population – Kenya County Fact Sheet 2013) don’t understand the importance of education and their children are not encouraged to go to school as they don’t have role models to look at.
Irresponsible tourism and western influence. Children end up into sexual exploitation activities with Kenyan and foreign tourists, because of being forced or attracted by the profit.
Violence. Sexually exploited children are the most vulnerable to ending up in the commercial sex market or becoming sex abusers.
Lack of opportunities for children. Especially out of school children, while looking for opportunities, end up being exploited.