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Launched on 6 July in Sanaa, the as yet unpublished study was done by the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood (SCMC), a government body, and was funded by the Arab Council for Childhood and Development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



Azerbaijan announced a contest for best article on street children problem

Baku, Fineko/ “Other Shelter” Fund of Poland and NGOs have announced in Azerbaijan a contest among journalists on the theme “I am seeking a family”.

The Ministry of Labour & Social Protection of Azerbaijan informs that the project is financed by the Polish Embassy and US-Polish Fund “Freedom”.

“The project objective is to focus attention of the public on problems of gutter-children, their biological parents and families desiring to adopt children,” it was informed.

The contest receives articles and reports published in the media. The contest consists of three nominations: publication in the press, programme or reporting on any TV channel a programme or reporting on radio.

The prepared materials should touch one of the themes as follows: homelessness, pathologic families, children in boarding schools, children’s rights in foster homes, rights and commitments of biologic and foster family, problems and negative situation.

Money prize on each nomination for the best publication or programme makes AZN 300.

The works are received at the address: 85, S. Askerov St, Baku; AZ -1009; Ministry of Labour & Socila Protection, TACIS Project, until November 15, 2008.
Contact phones: (012) 596-50-39,  mob (070) 318-55-90, (055) 556-56-56

Government, CSOs discuss study’s results on street children

[07 July 2008]

SANA’A, July 07 (Saba) – Sixty researchers, academics and specialists form government bodies and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) working in childhood field discussed on Monday results of survey study made on street children in cooperation with Arab Council for Childhood and Development.

The study, which was carried out in eight governorates, aimed at defining size of street children phenomenon, its causes and dangers on children for setting up governmental plans for curing it.

In a workshop organized for this regard, Minister of Social and Labor Affairs Amat al-Razzaq Hummad talked about importance of the study in knowing size of the phenomenon through scientific and critical numbers and data.

She clarified that her ministry is working on carrying out survey studies on child labor in addition to another study on poverty cases to be implemented across the country.

Then the study results have been announced by the Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Maternity and Childhood Nafisah al-Gaefi.

Experts See Drop in Number of Street Kids

Experts See Drop in Number of Street Kids

Staff Writer

Nadezhda is one of the young people who work at the Grand Hotel Europe as part of a scheme to help the underprivileged.

Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times

Nadezhda is one of the young people who work at the Grand Hotel Europe as part of a scheme to help the underprivileged.

St. Petersburg has from 3,000 to 10,000 street children but their number is gradually decreasing, experts have said.

“It’s hard to count these children and hard to give exact statistics. However, we have noticed that the number is decreasing,” Vera Klimova, coordinator of work with neglected children at Innovations Center, said at a press briefing dedicated to the problem last week.

Klimova said that in the Nevsky and Admiralteisky districts where help for street children is available the number of street children has decreased significantly.

“However, you can still see quite a number of them at Prospekt Prosveshcheniya or in the Kupchino district,” in the north and the south of the city respectively, Klimova said.

Wednesday’s press briefing was attended by a number of agencies dealing with street children, an often hidden problem that the authorities have struggled to tackle.

Maria Chugunova, a social worker from the city’s Children’s Crisis Center, said the decreasing number of street children could be due to measures taken to prevent family neglect, the appearance of family support centers, and pro-active help from the city administration.

Chugunova said every year the Children’s Crisis Center receives about 7,000 calls on its hotline.

Children complain about family conflict, violence, addictions and serious illnesses. The center offers help to children if they leave home, or are thrown out, via means such as the Social Rehabilitation Center for Street Children located in the Nevsky District.

The Children’s Crisis Center also has a mobile school where children, regardless of their age and education, can attend classes.

A special “night hostel” offers beds to teenagers who can’t live at home or have run away from children’s homes.

There are also day-care centers where children can receive subsidized food twice a month to help out their families.

“We don’t give the food packages more often than this in order to keep families active and doing something for themselves,” Chugunova said.

The Children’s Crisis Center caters for autistic children and children with other special needs by providing excursions to museums and day trips.

Klimova said the Innovations Center has worked with the Admiralteisky district to support the Ostrov (“Island”) day center that offers social, medical, psychological, and family rehabilitation to children in need.

The family rehabilitation program offers psychological and material help to parents as well.

“Sometimes those parents just need to believe in themselves, or to be sent to medical establishments to be cured of addictions,” Klimova said.

The center also takes children to summer camps.

Ostrov prepares youngsters for adult life by encouraging school attendance and has collaborated with companies such as the Grand Hotel Europe, IKEA, and Gillette to provide internships and work placements for former street children.

Innovations Center organizes street patrols two or three times a week to reach out to children living rough.

“However, all our experience shows that to achieve real success, every child needs an individual adult to take care of them,” Klimova said.

“I think that in future the system of shelters and day centers should be changed to placing children with adoptive families,” she said.

Street kids turned hockey champs to compete in Slovenia

Street kids turned hockey champs to compete in Slovenia

The Gaziantep Police Force field hockey team will represent Turkey in the European Open Field Clubs Championship, to be held in Slovenia.

The Gaziantep Police Force Field Hockey Team — made up entirely of former street children — has been the nationwide field hockey champion three years running, and will represent Turkey in the European Open Field Clubs Championship to be held in Slovenia on May 8-11.

The team was established in 2003 and finished its first hockey season in its 14-team league in fourth place. Its success then and now is attributable to government-civilian cooperation, the combined efforts of Yusuf Kasım, the trainer of the national field hockey team and a physical education teacher, police officers from the Gaziantep Police Department, businessmen in Gaziantep and the young players. Of the team’s 15 players, 14 have played in national matches and four have been granted national player status; some have even begun studying at sports academies.

But the team got off to a rocky start. Kasım says that when they first began, they had to hold practices on streets and at parks. “They have been working with me since they were 13. When we were working at the park, some children watching would come and ask what we were doing. They soon developed interests in hockey and started to work with us. They are now playing national matches,” he notes. Kasım indicates that Asım Akçacı, a star on the team, used to sniff glue. “We’ve managed to create a hockey player out of him. Now, he’s the team captain. He has played in 19 national matches — we are proud of him,” he says.

Akçacı is very grateful to his coach, who he credits for saving him from the bad habit. “After meeting Kasım, I was saved from the streets and addiction. I call on all addicted children to engage in sports and thus escape,” he says.




Street children becoming a new problem on Lebanon’s streets

Street children becoming a new problem on Lebanon’s streets – Feature
Posted : Tue, 18 Mar 2008 02:14:02 GMT

Beirut – Street children are becoming a common sight in Beirut, some begging at traffic intersections, others wiping off dirty car windows, and others just hanging around with searching eyes that clearly show the kind of life they are living. Zeina, 10, is one of the unfortunate ones, who due to family circumstances are forced to try to sell some chewing gum before nightfall so she can return home with something to feed her sister, brother and sick mother.

Zeina, with her green eyes, taps on a car window wither dirty little hands, begging to sell her chewing gum before nightfall. "So please buy one, I have to sell them all in order to buy bread for my family," Zeina pleads, with tears in her eyes.

The little blonde girl said she has mainly lived on the streets since she was eight to help her family survive.

"I have been begging, selling roses, chewing gum, or washing windows since I was eight," she said. "My father left us because my mother got sick."

Zeina is only one of thousands of children who try to eke out a living on the streets of Lebanon’s cities these days. A few of the street children are forced to beg by their parents, while the rest are victims of some notorious gangs who push them towards flesh trades and slavery.

According to Khawla Mattar of the International Labour Organization, "the number of children working on the streets is difficult to determine. Anyone who gives you a definite number would be fooling you."

One social affairs official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the ministry plays a limited role in combating the trend.

"Our role is preventive," the official said. "We try to mingle with the children and attract them to our centres for recreation and education, rather than leaving them on the streets where they are subject to drugs and crime."

He added: "When street children are caught by the police and taken to police stations, our representatives work on moving them to specialised institutes."

Although no official statistics exist on the number of street children in Lebanon, the Lebanese Evangelical Organization has more than 100 children under its protection, said the group’s head John Iter.

Iter said 15 per cent of street children in Lebanon are Lebanese, while 55 per cent are foreigners and the remaining 30 per cent are of mixed Lebanese-foreign parentage.

The phenomenon of street children "has become one of the most important mounting social problems in Lebanon," said Elie Mikhael, secretary general of the Higher Council for Childhood.

"According to UNICEF and the National Labour Organization, street children can be divided into two categories: those in the street still in full contact with their parents and street children who don’t have anyone and are totally dependent on themselves," he said.

"Certain parents send their children off to work to raise money. Extreme, violent measures ranging from beatings to sexual abuse are taken (if) the child refuses to go or deliver the earnings of the day," Mikhael said.

He added that parents’ pressure to make money was another reason for the increase in the number of street children during the hard economic times prevailing in Lebanon.

Mikhael said social organization cannot only work alone, but they need the help of the government with funds and centres in order to reduce the evolving problem.

But until a solution is found, small children like Zeina remain the sole bread-winners in their families, amid fears that one day they will fall in the hands of the wrong people.

Belgrade street children struggle to eke out living

Belgrade street children struggle to eke out living

BELGRADE (AFP) — The plight of Luja, a 16-year-old who stopped going to school because he couldn’t afford books, reflects that of the hundreds of homeless children in Belgrade.

Instead of getting an education, he guards a private car parking lot, scraping just enough together to be able to survive.

Luja’s story is similar to those of some of the estimated 500 homeless children and teenagers who, during the day, wander along the grimy streets of the Serbian capital.

Most of them are Roma, but of different backgrounds, some having run away from their biological or adoptive parents, and others having fled orphanages or youth centres.

Many are refugees. Those who fled the southern territory of Kosovo in recent years joined ones who left their homes during the wars in neighbouring Bosnia and Croatia in the early 1990s.

Social workers fear Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia on February 17 could still bring a new wave of refugees as many Serbs and ethnic minorities living there might decide to flee north.

"I left school four years ago because I could not buy books and school supplies," Luja told AFP.

"Watching the cars at the parking lot at least brings some money," he explained.

After a day spent begging in the streets, trying to attract the attention of indifferent passers-by, cleaning windshields at main crossroads or minding luxury cars, these children return to what they consider their homes: abandoned basements or even drainage holes.

Some 300,000 children in Serbia are affected by poverty, have no access to medical care, nor a proper education, according to Judita Reichenberg of the United Nations childrens’ fund in Serbia

Only recently, a non-governmental group, the Centre for the Integration of Youths (CIM), opened a daycare centre for street children, offering them a place to eat, medical and psychological check-ups and medication, if needed.

The daycare facility, housed in the Rex Cultural Centre in downtown Belgrade, is open for five hours every afternoon.

The bar in the centre, a popular site for alternative music concerts, art exhibitions and independent films, is during that time transformed into a movable kitchen and a dining hall.

But it soon became too small to accommodate all those needing help.

"I come here because there is food and drinks. There is also a nurse to check our health," said Denis, leaning on a ping-pong table covered with a linen cloth for meals.

As he spoke, a volunteer off-loaded a pile of clothes on the table, sparking a mad rush by the children to find trousers and jackets in their own size.

The CIM organisation says it has been taking care of more than 300 street children and teenagers for three years.

Each of them has their own history to tell. But it is mostly because of mistreatment and misery in their homes that the children decided to live on the streets.

Scorned and rejected, they often become victims of sexual abuse, volunteers say. As a result, many of them turn to prostitution or drugs.

"We know that some of them are drug addicts. Although drugs and alcohol are forbidden (here), we welcome these children here because we want them to feel safe," said the centre’s coordinator, Mila Muskinja.

But the hostile attitude of the general population towards the street children has complicated the group’s activities, as it had to close a similar centre since tenants complained of their presence.

"That centre was open around the clock, but we had to close it as the tenants considered it a threat to their security," said CIM official Milica Djordjevic.

In coordination with the Belgrade city government’s welfare department, the organisation is planning to open another 24-hour centre in the coming months.

Although some Belgraders offer aid to the centre, mostly second-hand clothes, there are not many of those giving away what children need most: compassion and affection.

"Every sweater is obviously appreciated, but a change of attitude would be even more," stressed Djordjevic.

Up to 20,000 street children living in Germany: Terres des Hommes

Up to 20,000 street children living in Germany: Terres des Hommes

Berlin, March 11, IRNA

The children’s aid agency Terres des Hommes reported Tuesday that up to 20,000 runaway children, teenagers and young adults are at times living on the streets, news reports said.

Many of them are sick or left without a perspective. Every second homeless child or youth is being assisted by local aid projects, said Uwe Britten speaking on behalf of terres des hommes.

Half of those people taking part in the aid projects are under the age of 18 and three percent under 14. Around 35 percent of girls are also affected, he added.

Terres des Hommes and 25 other organizations and initiatives are planning to step up taking care of the growing number street children.

Homelessness is only a superficial problem, Britten pointed out.

He linked the reasons for children and teenagers to run away from homes to problems like violence in families, separation, alcoholism and drug abuse by parents.

According to Terres des Hommes, the health condition of street children and homeless teenagers is also dismal as many of them are grappling with depression, alcohol and drug problems as well as hepatitis.

Growing number of street children in Germany, report says

Growing number of street children in Germany, report says
Posted : Tue, 11 Mar 2008 15:54:00 GMT
Author : DPA

Berlin – Up to 20,000 children and juveniles are living on the streets of Germany, one of Europe’s wealthiest countries, the children’s relief group Terre des Hommes said Tuesday. Domestic violence, neglect or parental drug abuse are some of the reasons that lead to children running away and becoming homeless, according to a report prepared for the organization.

The report’s author, writer Uwe Britten, warned that street children were in danger of becoming outcasts in society and later passing on this status to their own children.

The study showed that not all those covered in the survey lived on the streets permanently. Some used this option as an escape when things at home become intolerable.

Many suffered from illness and had little prospect of obtaining regular employment, the study showed. About half received some form of help from relief projects.

Half of those living on the streets were under 18 and 3 per cent under 14. About one-third of those receiving help were girls.

Terre des Hommes said it had joined forces with 25 other relief organizations to form an Alliance for Street Children with the aim of pooling resources to get to grips with the problem.

While poverty is the main cause for social deprivation among young people, there are also cases of street children coming from wealthy backgrounds, according to Britten.

According to statistics released by the German Society for the Protection of Children, some 2.6 million children in Germany – one in six – live in poverty. Among children under 15, the percentage is one in four.

Albanian street children’s plight recognized by study

22 Feb 2008 13:09:20 GMT

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Albanian girl begging in the streets of the capital city Tirana
Albanian girl begging in the streets of the capital city Tirana
World Vision MEERO,

Some 293 of the estimated 800 children who work on the streets of Albania’s capital Tirana, according to the Child’s Rights Centre in Albania, realized their plight is not forgotten as they participated in a quantitative research study recently conducted by World Vision.

The study was part of World Vision’s Children in Crisis Laboratory of Learning global initiative implemented with the help of both John Hopkins and Tulane University in the United States.

‘The study shows Albania’s, street children face lots of challenges, so there is great need for help,’ said Dr. Paul Bolton, of John Hopkins University.

‘It has also helped bring to light the prevalence of economic challenges street children face within their homes as well as the widespread harassment and abuse they receive from the wider community,’ said Tonya Renee Thurman, MPH, PhD of Tulane University.

While working and living on the streets these children are exposed to harsh environmental elements (cold and rain) and psychosocial and physical violence. Based on World Vision’s quantitative study, 80% of the children reported to have experienced physical abuse on the street.’

‘Whether they are working or begging on the street we know that these children are exploited and internally trafficked. In some cases they are trafficked for forced labor outside of Albania,’ said Blerta Petrela World Vision Albania’s Child Protection Manager.

Of the street children interviewed, 94% were boys between 10 to 14 years old, and as many as half of them started to work before the age of 10. Some children belonged to ethnic minority groups such as Roma and Egyptian, while others were non-minority Albanian. In many cases the reasons the children are on the street were the same, regardless of whether or not they were a from minority group.

Family poverty is one of the main conditions that result in children begging or working on the street. Many of them labor an average of seven hours a day and others as much as 18 hours, with most of their earnings given to their families. More than 80% of street children work mostly during the day, hence school drop out is high among them. However, most of the children interviewed during the quantitative study reported that if they could they would be happy to attend school.

World Vision is in the process of developing holistic programs to address the needs of street children in Albania. The Children in Crisis Laboratory of Learning global initiative is enabling staff to have a better understanding of problems affecting street children, resulting in the design and implementation of locally appropriate interventions. Later, the impact of the interventions will be measured to identify best practices in the area.

‘World Vision works with the most vulnerable populations, focusing on alleviating their immediate needs as well as the root causes of their poverty. While children in crisis are a ‘symptom’ of more fundamental issues, responding to this group is an imperative driven by our fundamental commitment to the most vulnerable,’ said Brett Gresham, World Vision’s regional director for strategic development, Middle East and Eastern Europe.

World Vision is working with civil society organizations and partner NGOs to advocate and lobby the Albanian government to start implementing child rights policies and legislation. World Vision has been organizing trainings with parents, children, teachers and communities where it operates to raise awareness on issues of child’s rights and child protection.

World Vision is also a member of the BKTF network, a network of local and international NGOs in Albania that works against child exploitation, trafficking and abuse. In the summer of 2007, World Vision, along with Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Save the Children and Terre des Hommes, financed an anti-begging national campaign.

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