Photo taken on the fly of street children in Lomé during an outreach exercise organised by HI in May 2020. | © HI
In Lomé, the capital of Togo, COVID-19 restrictions have made the lives of homeless people even more difficult to bear. Many are children and single mothers. HI has been organising outreach to provide them with assistance.
In May 2020, HI’s teams visited the streets of Lomé at night to assist homeless people. The COVID-19 crisis has made their precarious living conditions worse. We spoke to Eli Koffi Afossogb, who took part in HI’s outreach exercises.
HI decided to launch a series of actions to promote the basic hygiene of homeless people in Lomé and supply them with food aid, and to indirectly reassure the rest of the population about their state of health. In the future, our actions will include opening two centres for the most vulnerable, including children, isolated women, and people with disabilities, where they can get a health check and psychosocial support. Two mobile teams will visit neighbourhoods at night to provide consultations. HI plans to help 3,000 people.
At least 15,000 people live on the streets of Lomé, a city of two million inhabitants. Many are children, teenagers, and single mothers with young children. Before the pandemic, they often earned money doing odd jobs at the Grand Marché in Lomé, such as carrying groceries or parcels for customers or traders. Begging was an important source of income for them, enabling them to just about survive.
As a result of the curfew and the restrictions put in place from March to May to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Grand Marché was closed and the homeless lost their source of income. Although the restrictions were lifted in June, the recovery has been slow. There are fewer odd jobs to do. People who are afraid of them - because they see them as potential vectors of disease - are more reluctant to give them money when they beg, leading to a serious deterioration in their living conditions.
Restaurants were also forced to close during the two months of COVID-19 measures. Many homeless people used to eat what restaurants threw out. Only some restaurants have reopened, leading to a spike in cases of undernourishment.
Some homeless people have been forced from places where they used to sleep. Before the curfew, a group of children aged between 9 and 15 years old used to sleep near the post office.
Now they spend the night on the pavement. Some are at risk of sexual abuse. We have seen children overwhelmed by fear and despair.