“… the children find themselves, in essence, in a state of civil death – the legal status of a person who is
alive but has been deprived of the rights and privileges of a citizen or a member of society “
~ Jason Florio, New York based photojournalist
The UN has estimated the population of street children worldwide at a staggering 150 million, with the number rising daily. Many consider this a conservative figure. Ranging in age from three to eighteen, about 40% are homeless. As a percentage of world population, this is unprecedented in the history of civilization. The other 60% work on the streets to support their families. Some are sent out by their impoverished parents to work or to beg. They are unable to attend school and are considered to live in “especially difficult circumstances”.
Certainly not all street children become victims of human trafficking. But children do constitute more than half of all those snared by traffickers. Children fending for themselves in the gritty streets of slums in cities around the world, are surely at greater risk than any other single population. Increasingly, these children are the defenseless victims of brutal violence, sexual exploitation, abject neglect, chemical addiction, and human rights violations. In no way is this scourge confined to poor or developing nations. Nearly 32,000 teens live on the streets of New York City each year.
WHO ARE STREET CHILDREN?
UNICEF has defined three types of street children: Street-Living, Street-Working, and Street-Family.
- Street-living children are those under the age of 18 years old who spend most of their time on the streets. These are children who cut ties with their families and live alone on the streets. Many children may leave their families at a young age, because of physical and emotional abuse. They are mostly between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. 20% of them are girls.
- Street-working children are those who spend most of their time working on the streets to provide income for their families or for themselves. These children have a home to return to and do not usually sleep on the streets. It is estimated that there are approximately 10,000 of these children in Phnom Penh alone. They are mostly between the ages of 6 to 15 years old. 50% of them are girls.
- Street-family children live with their family on the streets. They are of all ages. 50% are girls.
Why do children become “Street Children”?
There are many reasons that children leave their homes. There are problems within their family or marital breakdown. They suffer extreme poverty and cannot survive in their current situation. They become orphaned because of accident or illness. There is severe abuse at home.
How do “street children” survive?
Many street children beg on the streets from morning to night. Many children find casual work picking rubbish out of garbage bins. Some children steal. These children often stick together, in groups of two or three, looking out for each other. Many children find their own escape from street life through glue-sniffing and other drugs.
Why do children work at the garbage dump?
• Their families work at the dump and it’s the only life they know
• They are orphaned on the streets and need to earn money – the dump can help feed them
• They come from the country side and have no opportunity to work in the city
• It is a place where they can find some material goods that they need (i.e. clothes, shoes, toys)
Why do children enter the sex trade?
• They are sold to brothels by their parents that seek money to survive
• They are tricked by adults that offer them a better life
• They need money to feed themselves and their families
• They are taken and enslaved by adults
How can we help these children?
• Provide them with food, clothing, shelter, education, health care, love, protection and basic rights
• Provide them an opportunity for a career outside of begging
• Prevent conflict within their family
• Reduce poverty in the communities and homes
• Reduce the spread of HIV/AIDs
• Enforce law system to protect them
• Promote their integration into society
• Encourage more programs that support them
• Promote child rights
PANGAEA is a leading organization advocating worldwide for the plight of “community children“, their preferred term. Their website is a trove of links and articles and contains a comprehensive list of other organizations. There is no better starting place for further information.
The Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children in the U.S. and around the world. A very comprehensive list of articles, information and resources listed by country. Similarly arranged information on this site for ‘human trafficking’ and ‘child prostitution’.
Safe Horizon is a wide ranging victim assistance organization that besides tackling issues of human trafficking, domestic violence and child abuse, also has an active program to help street youth in New York City.
Invisible Children, Kids at Risk Action (KARA) Children’s rights advocacy network.
Ghosts of the Civil Dead: Stunning photoessay by New York based photojournalist Jason Florio. This work captures homeless youth in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Burke is one of 80,000 homeless children there. He lives in a small hole in the center of a main street. Sometimes he shares his tiny sanctuary with a friend.
National Center for Youth Law: The National Center for Youth Law works to ensure that low-income children have the resources, support, and opportunities they need for healthy and productive lives.