About Street Children

    Street children - who are they?

    Children live on the streets on every continent. These children are shouted at, chased away, pushed around, abused and sometimes even killed by the adults that should in fact care for them. Whether they live in Manila, Rio de Janeiro, Nairobi or Bucharest, their daily life is about hunger, violence and hopelessness. They sleep in parks and doorways, on waste disposal sites, in makeshift shacks or underground stations. They beg, steal and take any kind of job in order to somehow survive.

    The expression "Street Children" is used to describe children or youth under 18, for whom the street has become their habitual abode and/or source of livelihood. UNICEF, the UN's Children's Rights and Emergency Relief Organization, differentiates between "children on the street" and "children of the street". While children in both categories spend most of their time on the streets, "children on the street" have a family and a home to go to at night. "Children of the street" live and sleep on the street and have cut off any ties with their families and former social surroundings.

    In reality the transition between the two categories is very easy. Over the years "children on the street" become easily "children of the street" as they have less and less contact with their families or even become disowned by them after, for example, coming into conflict with the law. Many street children rent a room for a night if they have enough money, or sleep at a friend's place. Gangs of friends that work as surrogate families and where the older ones look after the younger ones are usually very important for street children. Unfortunately drugs often play a great role in these gangs. They might help the children bare the toughness of the life on the streets, but they definitely make it a great deal more difficult to "come off" of the streets.

    Sierra Leone: Live on the streets (Englisch)

        How many children live on the streets?
        While the number of children living on the streets is estimated around a 100 million, exact numbers are not available, as most of the street children do not have a birth certificate. This means that they were not registered by the state and therefore have no access to state provisions, such as health care or education. Official statistics on the number of street children are hardly existent or not exactly credible, as the children and youth living on the street do not usually stay in the same place for a longer period of time, which makes it very difficult to count them. The vague distinction between children "on" the street and "of" the street further complicates the problem of carrying out an authentic headcount. Most of the street children live in the agglomerations of big cities, such as Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, Accra and Saint Petersburg. Even though one is most likely to meet street children in India, Pakistan, Latin America and - increasingly - in Africa, there are children and youth living on the streets in Europe and the USA as well.

        How do they end up on the streets?
        The story of each and every street child is different. However, there are some fundamental social reasons to why there are still so many of these children.

        Most of the street children come from very poor circumstances and must contribute to their families' livelihood from an early age on. Some of the reasons for families to fall apart are unemployment, poverty and disordered living conditions, often going along with violence and drug abuse. When children are neglected and see no other way out, they often run away and try to survive on their own. Once they live on the street, the road back to a well-ordered life becomes more and more difficult, especially as very few street children have a chance to go to school or learn a profession.

        Millions of children have lost their parents to HIV, especially in the Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast-Asia. The orphans are usually taken in by grandparents or other family members who, in some cases, are taking care of 10 to 15 children. And when it comes to schooling and buying clothes or food, these foster parents usually favour their own children. That is why orphans often choose the streets in the hope of a better life.

        In some countries unwanted children are sometimes chased away by their relatives under the pretext that they are "cursed" or "hexed", as it happened for example in Sierra Leone in the summer of 2014 in relation to the Ebola epidemic.

        Disasters, flight and expulsion
        Many children who live on the street have lost their homes due to environmental disasters; have been expelled from their home country together with their families or have had to flee from war or conflict. Unfortunately children in warzones are frequently recruited as child soldiers and forced to carry out atrocities. As these children cannot go back to their families, they often end up on the streets after the war is over.

        Street children in Africa

          How can you help street children?

            There are around 100 million street children worldwide, who are forced to work, steal and beg to survive. They spend their nights in cardboard boxes and underground stations or in any place, where they can find a little warmth and shelter. They live every day with the fear of being beaten, exploited or abused. The Don Bosco Aid Projects, supported by Jugend Eine Welt, offer them a way out of their situation. The children receive help; their problems are heard and they can talk about everything that they have been through. During these interviews the experts try to figure out the causes behind the situation of each child and come up with ways to provide them support.

            Help street children to a new home with your donation. Donate now!

            Donations account of Jugend Eine Welt:
            Raiffeisen Landesbank Tirol
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