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Background: The street children phenomenon is an increasing pr ~blem in most cosmopolitan
cities of the world including Eldoret, which is a fast growing town. With the growth of the
town so is the increasing number of street children. It is therefore. important to have baseline
data on their health problems.
Objective: To determine the health problems of street children in Eldoret.
Design: A prospective and descriptive study.
Setting: Eldoret Town, Kenya.
Subjects: Eldoret street children aged 5 - 2lyears. Type 1 streer children were the "on" the
street children whospent most oftheir time on the streets but welit home in the evenings, type
2 were the "of' the street children who spent all their time in the I treets and had severed their
links with their families and did not have a home to go to, type 3 were abandoned children
staying in a shelter and type 4 were normal primary school ch Idren.
Results: One hundred and ninety one children were studied. There were 38,47,56 and 50
types 1,2,3 and 4 children, respectively. The most common s;,mptom was cough (28.9%)
while frequent diagnosis was upper respiratory tract infection URTI) (12.1 %) followed by
skin disease (50.9%) as the leading disease category. The con mon drug of addiction was
cigarette (37.6%) and none of the school children was taking any drug of addiction. The
prevalence of disease was 467 per 1000 children. Type 2 strt et children had the highest
prevalence of disease (833 per 1000 children). Shelter children had the least disease
prevalence (474 per 1000). Factors determining prevalence of disease were the same as in
normal children. The malnutrition rate was high with 31.1 % an, 141.9 % of the children being
stunted and underweight, respectively. Type 3 children had tht highest rate of malnutrition
with 51.8% and 64.3% being stunted and underweight.
Conclusion: Street children have a high incidence of childhood c iseases. Factors determining
occurrence of disease among street children are as in normal ct ildren. Respiratory and skin
diseases were the leading causes of morbidity. Drug abuse w: s rampant among the street
children but none of the school children abused any drug. Se:.ually transmitted infections
were not prevalent. Most of the shelter children were malnourished.
Recommendations: The government of Kenya should provide free health care for street
children in public hospitals. Further studies should be carrled out on the prevalence of
sexually transmitted diseases based on laboratory testing and on the causes of the injuries
suffered by the street children. The reasons for the poor nu! ritional status of the shelter
children should be analysed and appropriate measures taken

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The East African Medical Journal is published monthly by Kenya Medical Association.

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