Street children in Pakistan at risk of contracting Aids

The Peninsula On-line: Street children in Pakistan at risk of contracting Aids

Web posted at: 9/4/2006 4:53:22
Source ::: Internews

ISLAMABAD • The phenomenon of street children in Pakistan poses a complex social challenge, and these children are at the high risk of a myriad of physical and psychological problems as a result of both the circumstances that preceded their homelessness and the direct consequence of life on the streets.

This was the conclusion of a study on “Street children in Pakistan: A group at risk of HIV/Aids” carried out by Azad Foundation, a non-governmental organisation.

A total of 1,151 children living on the street, aged 10 to 18, were interviewed in 10 cities, where their maximum concentrations were reported.

According to the study the maximum proportions of children were 13 and 14 years of age. A high percentage of children (72.6 per cent) had never attended school.

It said 79 per cent of the study population was Pakistani children, followed by Afghani (10 per cent), Bengali (8 per cent) and Burmese (3 per cent).

The maximum proportions of the children were Punjabi speaking (41 per cent), followed by Pashtun (29 per cent), Sindhi and Urdu speakers (9 per cent), while only 8 per cent had Balochi as their primary language.

The study said physical violence with in the family, which included parental fights as well as physical punishments to the child, were the prime reason for children to leave their homes. This was followed by poverty (22 per cent) and a non-caring attitude of parents (10 per cent).

Approximately 78.5 per cent of the children stated that they stayed within a larger group of fellow street children. These groups are usually controlled by a group leader who is usually an elder either the strongest boy or the one who owns the place.

More than half of these children had been sleeping on streets or footpaths (57 per cent), in parks (33 per cent) during the last thirty days. About 5 per cent of the children said they had been sleeping at various mazars or shrines.

Approximately 4 per cent children said they slept at either their own work place or at the place where their friends worked.

Over 67 per cent of the children complained of at least one medical problem that they were currently facing. The major problem included GIT upsets (34 per cent) followed by respiratory tract infection (25 per cent), fever (21 per cent) and skin infections (14.5 per Cent).

Other complaints included headaches, flu, cough, generalised weakness, unspecified aches and my alias, etc.

Using the provided estimates, an approximation of the average monthly income was found to be Rs2,190, which is mostly spent in buying cigarettes and drugs. The primary source of income for the majority of children was scavenging garbage (27.2 per cent) followed by cleaning and washing cars (21 per cent) and minor jobs in hotels."

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