Youth around the world face multiple vulnerabilities. Their lives are often shaped by economic, political and cultural contexts unique to their country of origin. However, according to a 2007 State of the World’s Street Children report, street children’s experiences are still strikingly similar, including those in wealthy nations with child protection systems. These kids' lives are often plagued by the dangers and imminent risks that come hand in hand with life on the streets. The report further recognizes that violence is a core theme underpinning children’s presence on the streets, where they experience traumatizing and marginalizing events such as abuse, exploitation, abject poverty, erratic and exclusionary access to educational and health services, and general stigmatization by mainstream society.[i]
As is the case with other disadvantaged populations, sound statistics are difficult to
find. According to the 2012 State of the World’s Children report, estimates suggest that tens of millions of children live or work on the streets of the world’s towns and cities – and the number is rising with global population growth, migration and increasing urbanization. [ii] However, this number is up for debate.
Several countries have their own statistics. In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, there are estimates of 10,000 to 20,000 street working children. In Ethiopia, the government estimates that 150,000 children live on the streets, with around 60,000 in Addis Ababa alone. And 1 million children are believed to be on the streets of Egypt, most in Cairo and Alexandria. [iii]
In Nicaragua, the situation is equally grim. According to a survey of 300 street children conducted by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Family, over 80% had engaged in prostitution to survive.[iv] Others were caught in a spiral of violence, and often addicted to drugs such as glue to curb hunger. I saw this firsthand in Managua when I shadowed a local street outreach team as they talked to afflicted youth and attempted to form vital support networks.
Events for this April 12th seem largely symbolic - agencies like the Hope Foundation are releasing balloons with messages for street children - but there are other ways to take action too. CSC is asking people to sign their pledge so they can affect change on the policy level via a meeting with the UN in June. You can sign the pledge here: http://www.streetchildrenday.org/take-action/#addyourvoice. And, if you are of the volunteering ilk, nonprofits dedicated to street children continue to need help. At IOFA, we are dedicated to improving the lives of young people worldwide. So speak up, take action and help us champion the rights of youth across the globe!
-Summar Ghias, Program Development Intern
[i] Thomas de Benitez, S.(2007). State of the World’s Street Children: Violence, Consortium for Street Children Retrieved from http:// www.streetchildren.org.uk
[ii] The State of the World’s Children (2012). Children in
an Urban World. UNICEF. Retrieved from http://www.unicef.org/sowc2012/pdfs/SOWC%202012-Main%20Report_EN_13Mar2012.pdf
[iii] Consortium for Street Children: Statistics.(2009) Retrieved from http://www.streetchildren.org.uk/_uploads/resources/Street_Children_Stats_FINAL.pdf
[iv] Street Children in Nicaragua. Casa Alianza. Retrieved from http://www.casa-alianza.org.uk/northsouth/CasaWeb.nsf/3/Nicaragua_Detail?OpenDocument