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Extracts from Mitchell’s speech to the Street Child Africa Schools Conference:

SUPPORTING THE GOVERNMENT

"Support for the British contribution to international development is not a Labour or Conservative policy, but a British commitment. So I am proud to say that I support the government in much of what it does to increase aid to developing countries. In the area of International Development, the stakes are simply too high for bickering between political parties."

THE LACK OF PARENTHOOD

"An estimated 15 million children have lost at least one parent because of AIDS. Countless more are orphaned through wars, or are forced to enlist in
armed militias and leave home before they have even received an
education.With limited healthcare resources and poor sanitation, many women die in childbirth. Without parents to care for them, it is no surprise that orphans are far more likely than other children to miss school, turn to begging or prostitution, fall sick, fail to be inoculated, pass on diseases, and die young."

REJECTION AND DISCRIMINATION

"For the most part, these young people spend their whole lives knowing nothing but rejection. Rejection first by their families, and then by society. They are also objects of rape and sexual attack. People know that street children will not and cannot bring charges against them. So they are often abused. They are seldom loved or valued. Many are traumatised, having watched their parents slowly waste away and die. Many are shunned because of the stigma surrounding death by AIDS and the assumption that they carry the virus too."

GLUE ADDICTION

"According to a report by the Baiti organisation, 98% of children
living on the streets of Morocco are addicted to sniffing glue. A
substance they use to numb the feelings of hunger, cold, and rejection.
I recently read about Maria, a 12-year-old Kenyan girl who had been
living on the streets for years.
Without the hope of an education, a place to live, regular meals,
access to healthcare, protection from abuse by older street children or
the police, and a new set of clean clothes to give her a sense of
dignity, glue was her only escape."

BOTTOM-UP APPROACH

"It is charities like Street Child Africa that exemplify the
"bottom-up" approach to aid. Their work has a direct and personal
impact on the individuals they help. Their staff go to great pains to
earn the trust and friendship of the street children they look for in
some of the most deprived areas. Once they have earned this trust, they
can develop their relationship and devise a strategy for getting the
child off the streets. Off drugs. Off crime. Away from prostitution."

EDUCATION, EDUCATION

"Education is, quite rightly, one of the key priorities in Africa, and
providing free primary education to all would help to integrate many
street children back into the community, as well as offer them a
lifeline out of poverty. Educating girls, in particular, is key to
ensuring the next generation receives an education. 75% of children in
developing countries who do not go to school have mothers who did not
go to school either. Countries that have abolished school fees have
seen a tremendous surge
in school enrolments: In Kenya in 2003, enrolment grew from 5.9 million
to 7.2 million in a matter of weeks."

ANTI-RETROVIRAL DRUGS

"If cheap anti-retroviral drugs were widely and safely distributed and
better food and nursing care made available, mothers and fathers could
expect to live for several more years. It is estimated that the
vaccinations carried out in 2003 alone will prevent more than two
million deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases and an additional
600,000 deaths related to hepatitis B that would otherwise have
occurred in adulthood among the children immunized in that year."

KEEPING FAMILIES TOGETHER

"Extended families do a heroic job of caring for orphans and preventing
delinquency. Typically, a grandmother takes on children after her
daughter dies. Where governments can afford to help, as in South
Africa, Namibia and Botswana, bigger pensions and foster grants can
keep families together. This is another area where we, the
international community, can provide the support to African governments
to enable them to operate such schemes which can have such a massive
impact on street children throughout the continent."

REMOVING TRADE BARRIERS

"We should back up these schemes by removing trade barriers to promote
their economies, and by fighting corruption to ensure that all monies
are spent wisely on development, and not on arms which only perpetuate
the conflict and misery for so many men, women and children in Africa.
The plight of African street children is symptomatic of a wide problem,
which can only be solved through international co-operation, commitment
to our promises, and the goodwill of governments and NGOs to face up to
the challenges posed by poverty in Africa."

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