The socio-demographic characteristics, health and nutritional status of street children in selected towns in Kenya
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In most developing countries, the number of children growing up on the streets of the world's cities is rising at an alarming rate. There is scanty research done on the effect of such a lifestyle on the personal characteristics, social, health and nutritional status of street children. The objective of this cross-sectional study was therefore to determine the Socio-demographic characteristics, health and nutritional status of street children in Kisumu city, Nakuru and Kitale Towns. Several methods including face-to-face interviewing using pre-tested questionnaire, direct measurement using calibrated digital weighing scale and a height meter, focus group discussions, stool examination, and observation (both participatory and sociometric), were combined to minimize memory errors. Snowball sampling was used to identify the targeted group and the total number of existing clusters. In each cluster, the children were randomly selected on the basis of linear proportionalities. A total of 400 respondents were randomly sampled as a result. After a through and vigorous data cleaning, the sample size was reduced to 387. The street children were grouped as either 'on' and 'of the street. Our results show that both the 'on' the street and 'of street children were ill schooled and many of them lived by scavenging food. Nutritional status was based on weight and height. Both the 'on' and 'of the street children had a significant high level of stunting (p<0.05). Poverty was identified as the major factor driving the children from their homes to the streets. Other factors included child abuse and neglect by parents, and the increasing crisis in rural areas resulting largely from ethnic clashes, drought, famine and banditry. The effects of intestinal parasitic infestations and substance abuse had adverse implications for physical development of street children. Considering the findings of the study, efforts should be directed towards improving the home environment and household food security so that these children could stop moving to the streets of major towns.