POPULAR Democratic Movement parliamentarian Jenifer van den Heever wants the government to construct safe houses to accommodate hundreds of homeless children who live on the streets.
Van den Heever made this demand in the National Assembly on Wednesday when she motivated a motion to discuss the need for safe houses for street children. She said the government has been overlooking the need to establish safe houses for these children since 2008.
She noted the effort the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare has made to get the children into daycare and after-school centres where they were offered meals and various extramural activities, but said this has proven futile "as the children had returned to the streets to make easy money".
"It is clear that the children need a robust rehabilitation programme and the need is rising due to their economic hardships. We must never stand accused of neglecting our social responsibility because of a callous attitude," she said.
According to her, in 2012, the United Nations Children's Fund estimated that about 307 000 children in Namibia live in poverty and that a further 167 000 live in extreme poverty.
In 2009, the Namibia Statistics Agency also concluded that one out of two children in Namibia grows up in a poor household. The bulk of these children end up running from home, and living in the streets to solicit a living.
It is, therefore, the government's responsibility, according to Van den Heever, to help the children on the streets and integrate them back in society.
One way of doing that, the PDM MP said, was by providing them with safe housing.
At the moment, there were only five registered places of safety for these children in Namibia, Van den Heever noted.
These are run by non-governmental organisations, which receive a small subsidy from the government.
The government only manages one children's home in Windhoek, whose existing structures are in dire need of improvement and reform, she said.
Although there are temporary places for children on the street, they are only there for emergency situations.
By establishing more safe shelters for the street children on the street, Van den Heever said the government will not only be addressing their homelessness but also giving them a greater opportunity at a brighter future.
Swapo member of parliament Lucia Witbooi agreed that the issue of children living on the street, if not addressed, could create multiple societal problems.
The lack of rehabilitation centres for children, Witbooi said, also adds to the problem.
"The lack of national documents of parents and children delays service delivery, especially access to state grants, access to health services and referring children to alternative services. Some who are reintegrated into schools show a lot of behavioural problems, drop out of school, are suspended or run away from schools," Witbooi said.
She said the solution to the plight of children on the street can only be realised if all stakeholders, such as the police, regional governors and NGOs, collaborate.
"School reintegration programme, are available in the regions. Children can be placed in boarding schools outside the attraction of the negative environment," she said.
Witbooi urged the public to stop giving money to children on the streets as this encourages them to remain on the street.