YEMEN: New study highlights plight of street children

YEMEN: New study highlights plight of street children


Photo: Mohammed al-Jabri/IRIN
Cleaning car windscreens is a common job for street children

SANAA, 8 July 2008 (IRIN) – Ahmed (not his real name) has been sleeping near a secondary school in the centre of Sanaa city, Yemen’s capital, for almost a year. He said he had come from the northern governorate of Amran to work and support his family back home.

The 14-year-old sells cigarettes and sweets in the city.

"My father went to Saudi Arabia three years ago to find a job but didn’t come back. I have three brothers and one sister and my mother asked me to find any job here in Sanaa to sustain them," he said.

The boy makes 400-800 Yemeni riyals (about US$2-4) a day and did not want to rent a room, in order to save money.

Ahmed is among an estimated 30,000 street children in Yemen, of whom 60 percent work and sleep on the streets and tend to be separated from their families, according to a new study. The remaining 40 percent work the streets but return to some kind of makeshift home at night.

Launched on 6 July in Sanaa, the as yet unpublished study was done by the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood (SCMC), a government body, and was funded by the Arab Council for Childhood and Development (an Arab non-governmental organisation).

First government study

This is the first government study on street children and its results will be used to create a database for future programmes aimed at tackling the problem, according to the SCMC.


Photo: Mohammed al-Jabri/IRIN
There are 30,000 street children in Yemen, according to a new government study

The study, which analyses the factors leading to the phenomenon of street children, was conducted in eight of the country’s 21 governorates – Sanaa, Aden, Taiz, al-Hudeidah, Hadhramout, Ibb, Hajjah and Dhamar. Researchers selected 4,760 street children (718 girls and 4,042 boys), aged 6-17, as a sample group.

Migration to the cities, poverty, unemployment, high fertility rates, lack of social services, abandonment of support for the poor by the state – all led to the problem of street children, according to the study.

Leading researcher Fuad al-Salahi said work was also done on observing how networks which aimed to exploit street children came into being.

"They [street children] could be used for selling drugs and girls for sex; they could be trafficked and sold as well," he told IRIN. "These children want to live and so can be involved in such illegal activities," he said.

He noted that the number of street children was on the rise, but that of the 6,000 civil society organisations nationwide only 3-5 of them dealt with street children.

Al-Salahi said respondents from the sample group either never went to school or only managed to complete their basic education, and that violence in schools was a factor behind the problem of street children.

Afflicted by violence, disease

According to the study, 82.8 percent of respondents said their earnings went to help their families. The study found street children worked as street vendors (selling food and non-food items), porters and car washers. Some worked as beggars.


Photo: Mohammed al-Jabri/IRIN
Some 60 percent of Yemen’s street children work and sleep on the streets and tend to be separated from their families, according to a new study

Al-Salahi said street children, many of whom had moved from their home governorates to reach a big city, regarded the street as a saviour and were disappointed that their activities were often viewed with contempt.

"In Hadhramaut Governorate, 98 percent of street children were from other governorates; in Aden street children coming from other areas made up over 70 percent," he said.

According to the study, 62.2 percent of respondents came from urban areas, and about 25 percent said they were subjected to different forms of violence, including sexual abuse, robbery, beatings and harassment by municipality workers.

The study also found a number of diseases among the street children, like diarrhoea, malaria, back ache, constant dizziness, chronic chest inflammations, ophthalmia, hepatitis and tonsillitis. Some suffered from wasting and anaemia.

maj/at/cb

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One thought on “YEMEN: New study highlights plight of street children

  1. “the number of street children was on the rise, but that of the 6,000 civil society organisations nationwide only 3-5 of them dealt with street children.” We are dealing with the same issues in India, as the economy develops, the number of street children is increasing, yet there is not enough support to reach out to all the youth and children in need.

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