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Launched on 6 July in Sanaa, the as yet unpublished study was done by the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood (SCMC), a government body, and was funded by the Arab Council for Childhood and Development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

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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.

YEMEN: Street children at increased risk of sexual abuse

YEMEN: Street children at increased risk of sexual abuse



Photo: David Swanson/IRIN
Naif, 11, has been selling newspapers on the busy streets of Sanaa for the past two years – one of up to 15,000 children working the streets of the capital, according to the Yemeni government

SANAA, 25 June 2007 (IRIN) – Selling newspapers along the hot and busy streets of Sanaa, Naif al-Ghuzzy, 11, wants nothing more than to help his family. “My parents are alive and my father is a street vendor,” the 11-year-old said. Each day he gives the US$1 he earns to his mother and sleeps, before venturing out the next morning to do same.

But Naif – one of thousands of children working the streets of Yemen – is luckier than most.

Many children, mostly boys selling anything from water and sweets to fruit and tissues, have nowhere to go at night, making them particularly vulnerable to the risk of sexual abuse and exploitation.

There are no exact figures on how many children nationwide fall into this category. Of the 13,000-15,000 children estimated to be working on the streets of the capital, many come from remote rural areas, and are away from their families, making the likelihood of them having a safe and secure environment to return to at night particularly low.

Increased number of street children

“Over the past five years, we have seen an increase in the number of street children in Yemen and with it an increase in sexual abuse,” Wadah Shugaa, deputy manager of the Safe Childhood Centre in Sanaa, said, citing grinding poverty and violence at home as the primary causes.

The Safe Childhood Centre is the only centre of its kind which gives refuge to Sanaa’s burgeoning street children population. Funded by the Yemeni-based Al Saleh Social Foundation for Development, the centre, with a bed capacity of 150, already provides shelter to some 27 unwanted boys, more than half of whom are believed to have been sexually abused.


Photo: David Swanson/IRIN
Many of the boys at the Safe Childhood Centre in Sanaa are feared to have suffered some form of abuse

“If they have been on the street for a long time, the chances of them being sexually abused is around 90 percent,” Shugaa said.

According to reports, boys as young as eight have been lured into the cars of strangers for as little as US$1, while others are sexually abused by older boys living rough on the street – a dire reminder of the vicious circle of abuse found throughout the world involving street children.

Yet the boys, generally brought into the centre by police or the centre’s own outreach programme, rarely divulge the abuse they have suffered.

“I never did those kinds of bad things, but I know others who have,” one 13-year-old boy at the centre whispered, glancing away from the peering eyes of other boys. “When you are hungry you do what you have to do,” he said, adding he knew of several occasions when a boy would be brought to a man’s home for a few days and routinely abused, before being let go.

“Yes, there are some bad boys doing bad things,” said another child at the centre who did not know his own age and who had been left on the streets by his mother to fend for himself after the death of his father in 1995.

Problem could worsen

Stories of such abuse are hardly new in Yemen. However, with continuing high poverty levels and the number of children forced to work on the streets increasing, specialists warn it could well worsen.

''If they have been on the street for a long time, the chances of them being sexually abused is around 90 percent.''

“It [sexual abuse] is a huge problem,” Dr Arway Yahya Al-Deram, executive director of Soul, a local non-governmental organisation (NGO), working to support underprivileged children and, who has visited the centre on numerous occasions. “I heard horrible stories there,” she said.

As for those working at the centre, getting the boys to speak about their experiences can take years. “It takes time for us to get the boys to talk,” Shugaa said, citing the sense of shame and embarrassment many of the boys feel after being abused.

In denial

Sadly, however, it is not just the children who do not want to talk about the abuse. Given an acute lack of awareness, many of the country’s 20 million inhabitants are also in denial.

“It’s big problem, but one kept largely in the closet,” Maha Nagi Salah, chairwoman of Ebhar Foundation for Childhood and Creativity, another local NGO advocating children’s rights in Sanaa, told IRIN, citing the conservative nature of Yemeni society.

“People don’t want to talk about this problem – sometimes not even the government,” Shugaa added, a fact proving yet another challenge for the handful of NGOs now working to address the problem.


Photo: David Swanson/IRIN
Driven by poverty, many boys in Sanaa have taken to the streets to earn a living for their families

However, according to Nafisa Al-Jaifi, general secretary of Yemen’s Higher Council for Motherhood and Childhood, the government was well aware of the issue, adding: “The discussion of children’s rights is now at a very high level.”

Most children working on the streets were coerced into doing so by their parents, Al-Jaifi told IRIN. She pointed out a draft amendment to Yemen’s 2002 child rights law which would result in parents being pun
ished for taking their children out of school to work the street or beg.

“This has already been approved by the prime minister and the cabinet,” she said, adding that they were now working on building awareness among local law enforcement officials, as well as the community at large about the growing abuse problem children may face.

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Street children

Street children


By: Anwar Mughram For Yemen Times

Street children are becoming a daily sight in most Yemeni cities.

The phenomenon of street children has become a widespread problem in the world, especially the Third World, and is due to multiple reasons, including economic and social situations. Numerous studies conducted at various levels both nationally and internationally indicate that economics represented by poverty are the top reasons for the phenomenon.

The problem has increased in Yemen in a surprising manner over the past decade, attributed to increased rates of unemployment and poverty and partly by lifting government subsidies on foodstuffs and oil products.

Located some 800 kilometers from the capital of Sana’a, Yemen’s coastal city of Mukalla is filled with street children, whom one can see every day. They come from remote areas in search of food for themselves and their families whom they left behind.

Thus, the streets become the sole place for such children where they spend both their working hours and their resting times. Lying on cartons with only the sky as their roof, Mukalla street children spend their days and nights there, not resorting to blankets due to the hot weather. When they want to use a toilet, they must wait for mosque bathrooms to open at prayer times.

Regarding the reasons for the phenomenon, which is very common in Mukalla, Mohammed bin Thalib, dean of Hadramout University’s Faculty of Education, comments, “There are many reasons, including family disintegration, widespread illiteracy and weak social upbringing of children and orphans.”

Psychologist Fouad Al-Salahi believes there are overlapping reasons, including lack of family awareness about children’s rights and the risks they face on the streets. Further, the matter also has something to do with poor education levels in Yemeni schools. However, he adds that poverty tops the list of reasons for the phenomenon.

“Poverty, want and extremely low income are the main reasons for the phenomenon,” agrees Hassan Al-Odaini, a child street vendor who sells kitchen equipment in Mukalla’s women’s market, “What causes a father send his child to such a faraway city to work are dire circumstances, poverty and low income.”

According to Hamoud Ali, who transports vegetables on his truck from Sana’a to Fouwah Central Market, the street children phenomenon results from poverty and government negligence of rural areas, which lack even basic public services and facilities.

He notes that more than 50 street children are from Ibb governorate’s Houbaish district, an area deprived of basic services and development projects, together with very few schools.

“I was in fifth grade when I left school and came to work in Mukalla due to my family’s poor living conditions because we’re unable to meet our daily needs,” 10-year-old Muath Al-Shar’abi explains. He adds that his family can’t rent a house because they receive little income and thus, they can’t afford blankets, mattresses, etc., or pay rent.

Sociologist and researcher Abdullah Al-Mikhlafi highlights the phenomenon’s socio-psychological effects on street children. “Street children are affected by a number of socio-psychological factors, including lack of a proper social upbringing, exposure to assaults and sometimes sexual abuse, together with dropping out of school,” he notes.

Mukalla street child Saddam Sa’eed comments, “We live on the streets, so we’re exposed to malaria from the mosquitoes spread throughout the city. We’re also subjected to sexual harassment and sometimes rape.”

He went on to say that Yemeni street children lead miserable lives because they have no custody, protection or rights, pointing out that most of the time, the homeless and misguided drop out of school.

Mohammed Ali, a street child selling qat in Al-Ghalilah Central Market, affirmed Sa’eed’s comments, assuring that street children like him are subject to assaults, mistreatment and sexual abuse by the surrounding society. As proof, he revealed marks and traces of beating on his face and body.

He also mentioned blackmail practiced against street children by their bosses. “They quite often deduct sums from our salary without any apparent reason, except that we are children,” Ali lamented, “They don’t consider our hard living conditions, together with our families; rather, they treat us as if they have neither families nor children of their own.”

What’s distinctive about Mukalla street children is that between 90 and 95 percent of them aren’t from Mukalla; rather, they are from various Yemeni governorates, including Ibb, Dhamar, Taiz and several others, according to Al-Mikhlafi.

“Most street children work as street vendors, car cleaners and sometimes beggars. Most of them spend all of their time on the street, lying on cartons, even when sleeping,” he explains.

Al-Mikhlafi adds that street children originally from Mukalla don’t exceed 5 percent, mostly working in fish transport and cleaning fruits and vegetables, and found in zones such as Al-Dais, Al-Sharj, Al-Ghalilah and Fouwah.

Healthy environment means healthy generations

Healthy environment means healthy generations


Amel Al-Ariqi amel11ariqi@yahoo.com

13 years old boy works in a farm in Sana’a, 292.000 children work in the agricultural sector.

More than 33 percent of diseases in children under age 5 are caused by environmental exposure, the World Health Organization reported last year, estimating that more than three million children under age 5 die each year due to environment-related causes and conditions. This makes the environment one of the most critical contributors in the annual global death toll of more than 10 million children – as well as an extremely important factor in the health and well-being of their mothers.

Although children under age 15 comprise 46 percent of Yemen’s 21 million population, there’s no scientific study linking the environment and the spread of diseases in Yemen, particularly among children. However, many doctors and reports have pointed to the relationship between children and the difficult environmental circumstances in which they live.

Fatal diseases and contaminated water

Contaminated water causes diseases such as malaria, diarrhea, polio, typhoid, hepatitis, cholera and bilharzias, which are very common in Yemeni children living in villages and the countryside where residents are forced to use unsafe surface water for drinking.

A parliamentary report exposed that 55,000 Yemeni children die annually due to water pollution-related diseases. The report, which warned of the spread of contaminated water usage, confirmed that 50 percent of child deaths are due to water pollution, including 20 percent from diarrhea and 30 percent from malaria and typhoid.

An Environmental Protection Authority report confirmed that most of these deaths occur among rural inhabitants, who represent 77 percent of Yemen’s population.

Water pollution has many causes; however, the National Water Sector Strategy Investment Program, reporting on 2000 through 2003, insisted that the main reason for water pollution in Yemen is absence of safe water sanitation services. The report indicated that only 25 percent of the rural population has access to safe water and only 20 percent have access to safe sanitation, as opposed to 47 percent of urban regions able to access safe water sources and 25 percent with adequate sanitation services.

According to the program, many citizens use unsafe methods to get rid of waste, whether human or water waste, which leaks into the ground. This behavior, the report said, damages groundwater – Yemen’s main water source – as well as creating a suitable atmosphere for disease vectors.

Farm children exposed to pesticides

An unofficial study estimates that 624,000 children are working in Yemen, 292,000 of whom work in the agricultural sector, among which 97 percent receive no money for their labor because they work for their own families. Only three percent of such children earn “trivial amounts.” Fifty-five percent of working Yemeni children work in agriculture and crafts, while the rest work as vendors in public places.

An official field study conducted by a Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor team exposed that children working in Yemen’s agricultural sector suffer numerous infections and diseases. Covering Sana’a, Al-Beidha and Dhamar governorates, the study found that 45 percent of such children have dermatitis, 30 percent have ophthalmia, which can develop into blindness, 20 percent have intestinal diseases and 5 percent have epile

Waiting for a customer. Street children are subjected to skin diseases, respiratory diseases and venereal or sexual diseases.

psy.

The study attributed the reason for such diseases to misuse of herbicides and insecticides because many children, 56 of whom are between ages 8 and 10, don’t use protective measures while spraying plants. They mistakenly confuse such poisons with water without consulting the instructions written on the containers. Most children working in the fields tend to work quickly without paying attention; thus, some parts of their neck and shoulders are exposed to the chemicals and their skin receives chemical burns.

Additionally, direct and constant exposure to dust also makes children an easy target for respiratory diseases like asthma and allergies. According to the study, 90 percent of children in these regions also chew qat that’s been polluted by herbicides.

Street children exposed to airborne germs

There are no specific statistics for street children in Yemen and estimates vary enormously. Although street children run businesses to support their families, they still suffer society’s condescending behavior and are treated as beggars or delinquents. The Higher Council for Motherhood and Childhood defines them as street children due to the shame involved in admitting this group’s existence and absence of specific provisions for “street children” in Yemen’s legal framework.

The most recent UNICEF study in 2000 estimated 28,789 such children in Sana’a, most of whom are between ages 12 and 14, with the vast majority, 78 to 96 percent, being boys.

UNICEF confirms that street children are among the most physically visible of all children, living and working on streets and in public squares. Yet, paradoxically, they also are among the most invisible and therefore, the hardest to reach with vital services like education and health care, as well as the most difficult to protect.

Medical experts say children in these circumstances are exposed to infection and disease more than adults. “Children who work in the street mainly are subjected to skin diseases, respiratory diseases and sexually transmitted diseases,” pediatrician Dr. Mohammed Kashnoon noted.

Due to the absence of personal cleanliness and prevailing unsanitary conditions, most street children suffer scabies, chicken pox, measles and other infectious illnesses transmitted via direct or indirect contact, according to Kashnoon. “These children also are subjected to respiratory diseases like sore throat, pneumonia, bronchitis and tonsillitis, which may lead to meningitis,” he confirmed.

Most of these diseases are transmitted by air; that is, if an infected individual coughs, his bacteria-contaminated breath is transmitted by air to other children who spend most of their time on the streets.

He also referred to injuries caused by widespread traffic accidents, with the main victims being street children.

Environmental hazards affect fetuses

On numerous occasions, Yemeni doctors have warn
ed about the increased impact of air pollution, which is obvious in major cities like Sana’a, Aden, Taiz and Hodeidah, due to activities such as burning fossil fuels like gas, coal and oil to power industrial processes and motor vehicles. Among harmful chemicals such burning releases into the atmosphere are carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides,

A boy looks at trash that he found in the pond during his swimming. 55,000 children die annually due to diseases related to water pollution. YT Photo by Glyn Goffin

sulfur dioxide and tiny solid particles, including lead from gasoline additives.

Al-Thawra General Hospital Deputy Zaid Ahmed Atif warned of air pollution, emphasizing the lead risk for children.

“The danger of lead is its ability to cross barriers and cause strokes and other neurological diseases, especially in children. Lead also raises the rate of physical and mental underdevelopment and its deposit in the liver leads to various diseases, as well as increases respiratory diseases like asthma, which is the lungs’ inability to absorb enough oxygen, thus corrupting the bronchioles,” Atif noted.

“A scientific study shows that children’s ability to absorb pollutants is higher than the elderly,” he noted.

The WHO report pointed out that health-damaging exposure to environmental risks can begin before birth. “Lead in the air, mercury in food and other chemicals can result in long-term, often irreversible effects, such as infertility, miscarriage and birth defects. Women’s exposure to pesticides, solvents and persistent organic pollutants potentially may affect the health of the fetus.

“Additionally, while the overall benefits of breastfeeding are recognized, a newborn’s health may be affected by high levels of contaminants in breast milk. Small children whose bodies are developing rapidly are particularly susceptible and in some instances, the health impacts may emerge only later in life.

“Furthermore, children as young as age 5 sometimes work in hazardous settings. Pregnant women living and working in hazardous environments and poor mothers and their children are at a higher risk because they’re exposed to the most degraded environments, they’re often unaware of the health implications and they lack access to information on potential solutions,” the report said.

Yemen’s maternal and infant mortality rates are among the world’s highest. In the 2003 demographic survey, an estimated 366 women died for every 100,000 babies delivered, while the infant mortality rate is estimated at 157 deaths for every 1,000 male and female births.

WHO stressed that promoting a healthy environment is partly about assessing, correcting, controlling and mitigating environmental factors that can adversely affect the health of present and future generations.

“In order to achieve this goal, it’s important for decision-makers at international, regional and national levels, together with non-governmental organizations, communities and families, to join efforts in recognizing and addressing key environmental hazards. This may include policy action, advocacy, prevention and grassroots participation,” the WHO report advised.

US helps street kids

US helps street kids

 Yemen Times Staff

The International Program for the Elimination Child Labor (IPEC), with funding from the US Department of Labor, opened a child rehabilitation center for working street children in 2003.
The center is currently training 150 children. Over 1,500 children have participated in the IPEC program.
The center provides back to school services, health programs, and remedial and vocational training for male students.
There is a plan to open such a center for girls in the future.
The center also assists students’ siblings by supplying school uniforms, healthcare, and back-to-school supplies.
It employs seven social workers and several teachers and focuses on reducing the number of hours worked by children and returning them to school. There are an estimated 4,000 street kids in Sana’a alone.
Most children in cities work selling products at intersections, and in hotels, restaurants, and vegetable stands.

A study of street children in Yemen

A study of street children in Yemen
By Abdul-Aziz Oudah
Jan 16, 2007, 17:07

About 5,000 children are forced to live on the streets in four Yemeni governorates, according to the results of the first stage of a new comprehensive survey of street children. This first stage began on December 4th and ended last week. It was carried out by the Supreme Council of Motherhood and Childhood, in cooperation with the Arab Council for Childhood and Development Support in the Yemeni governorates of Sana’a, Aden, Taiz, and Hodeida.

Dr. Fou’ad al-Salahi, a sociology professor at Sana’a University, the head of the team, said that this survey is the largest survey in Yemen of street children.  The implementation of the first stage carried was out in Yemen’s four main governorates. The second stage will start next week, and will be carried out in Hadramout, Ibb, Dhamar, and Hajja.  The survey initially focused on Sana’a, Aden, Taiz, and Hodeida because they are the most populous. They also draw many people from the countryside to their cities, so there is much internal migration, according to al-Salahi.

The survey aims to create a comprehensive picture of the situation of street children in Yemen. This will hopefully lead to amendments designed to protect these children and to determine the factors associated with street children and their families, and their economic, social, and cultural rights.  Al-Salahi said that the team was keen to identify the problems of street children by speaking directly to them, to find out their social status and ages. This information will help services to be put in place to help reduce the number of children on the streets.  The first stage was accomplished by a team composed of 20 researchers, four supervisors, and a team leader.

In a related subject Mohammed al-Ahwal, the Yemeni ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said that the number of children arrested during the last year in Saudi reached 900.  Ali Saleh Abdullah, the Deputy Minister of Social Affairs and Labor, said that child trafficking across the border subsided recently as a result of the efforts between the two countries.  An agreement between Yemen and Saudi Arabia to cooperate in fighting against children trafficking is expected to be signed this week.

Abdullah said that a work program will be signed in 2007 with the Saudi Social Affairs Ministry and Labor Ministry.  He said that the program mainly addresses social security, handicapped people, and children in various fields, in addition to the development of private associations’ work in the two countries and coordination of their activities.  Saudi Arabia has opened shelters for trafficked children in Mecca, Medina, and Jeddah.
Copyright 2002 – 2006 Yemen Observer

Factors affecting Yemeni street children

Factors affecting Yemeni street children


Anwar Murgham

Children who work during the day usually are school dropouts or those who didn’t attend school at all. YT Photo

Aged between 6 and 18, Street children can be categorized according to their type of work, the time of day they work and their living situation.

Most children working or begging part of the day or night are enrolled in school. They study in the morning and work or beg at night, returning home to spend the night with their family.

Children who work during the day usually are school dropouts or those who didn’t attend school at all. Most are from rural areas and live away from their family. They either come to cities with relatives or alone and spend the night in inns or living in groups in apartments.

Yemeni street children work in the following professions:

• Street vendors selling clothes, home appliances and other commodities on streets and at traffic lights/intersections.

• Car washers in street intersections and car parks.

• Porters carrying commodities on their shoulders or on carts working in general open markets and fruit and vegetable markets.

• Workers in restaurants and caf├ęs.

• Fare collectors on buses.

All of the aforementioned jobs are done by male street children, while female children work selling various types of bread (maloug, kudam and lahouh) beside small specialized restaurants and markets and selling foodstuffs like eggs and potatoes. However, females represent only a small percentage of street children.

Whether male or female, Yemeni street children beg on streets, at intersections, bus stops, in front of mosques and other public places.

Numerous factors have led to the street children phenomenon’s increase in Yemen, including social factors related to family circumstances and educational and cultural backgrounds.

Family circumstances

These include family differences regarding divorce, desertion, etc., unemployment of a family supporter or death of a family supporter, with the remaining family members’ inability to meet life demands, thus causing them to push children into the labor market to help meet their needs.

Educational factors

Among these are lack of clear philosophy for a developed education, lack of developed curricula and the fact that primary education doesn’t qualify children for the labor market, as well as vocational education’s inefficiency and its inability to handle more students desiring to join such institutions.

According to August 2005’s Education Pointers in Yemen issued by the Supreme Council for Education Planning (SCEP), the number of Yemeni students enrolled in vocational education represented 1.6 percent of total students enrolled in secondary education and 1.7 percent were enrolled in technical education among those students enrolled in universities.

The spread of unemployment among university graduates and dire situations employees experience is leading students to abandon education and tend toward the open market.

Dominant customs and cultural factors

Yemen is a traditional society with a high illiteracy rate of approximately 55.7 percent, particularly among women. According to the SCEP, the figure is even higher, at 74.1 percent. Further, numerous inherited customs pay no attention to children’s mental and physical abilities.

Additionally, there’s a dominant culture in Yemen regarding making children work at a young age so they’ll become accustomed to it, with some families considering children working as early manhood. There’s also a complete absence of media, which should spread awareness of children’s rights and the risks involved in children working.

Effects of the street children phenomenon

1. Educational effects

Children’s educational levels are affected because they find no time to study, which may cause them to fail and subsequently, drop out.

A new study conducted by UNICEF and the Arab League addressing children’s situations in the Arab world indicates that approximately 7.5 million Arab children have no education. According to the SCEP, approximately 1 million Yemeni children aren’t in school, most of them female.

2. Economic effects

What children receive from their work is too little when compared to the effort they exert, let alone the lack of training and qualification enabling them to be in the labor market. Therefore, they can’t secure their future demands nor improve their living standard.

Increasing numbers of illiterate and unqualified children multiplies the state’s duties toward them and further deprives the nation of their role in achieving sustainable development.

3. Psychological and social problems

Street children acquire what’s called street culture, including a lot of bad and immoral language and bad habits like chewing qat, smoking and addictions. They also experience absence of care and protection needed at this early age, thus affecting them psychologically.

Violence against street children

Children working on streets are subjected to verbal abuse, violation and harassment, which hurts their feelings and demeans their humanity. They mostly experience such violence from their friends or adults, but sometimes from customers and even government officials.

Government is losing street children – Yemen Times

Government is losing street children – Yemen Times

Yemen Times Staff

SANA’A, Aug. 20 — The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor does not know how many street children are in Yemen, according to a ministry official.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (MSAL) intends to conduct a number of field studies across the republic to record accurate figures for problem.

The MSAL started a training course for those working with social care houses, orphans and street children. Adel Dabwan, civil defense manager at MSAL, pointed out that these field studies will include the capital, Taiz, Aden and Al-Hodeidah as they are the most highly populated areas in Yemen and they have the most street children.

Dabwan also added that the number of social houses in these four governorates reaches 23, hinting that rural areas lack such houses and there is no intention to expand centers outside of these regions.

The number of street children in Sana’a governorate, according to a previous study conducted by MSAL, there were 15,000 children on the streets. In the mean time, this phenomenon is on increase due to the spread of poverty and more drop-outs from school.

The new field studies will be conducted by the High Council for Childhood and Motherhood and financed by the Arab Council for Childhood and Development, according to Dabwan."

The economic and social situation of street children: A study

The economic and social situation of street children: A study


Mohammed Al-Jabri

Most street children work or beg by themselves because most perform marginal work or private work.

Sana’a University sociology professor Abdo Ali Othman has prepared a study on the social and economic situations of Sana’a street children. Funded by UNICEF-Sana’a and assisted by several researchers, the field study was conducted on a sample of 635 street children.

According to the study, most street children in Sana’a city are considered working children, as a large number of them are rural, coming to work in Sana’a during summer vacation so they can help or support their poor families. The field study’s results showed that working children are the majority whereas begging children, homeless children and those who combine work and begging all come in second, while number the least is a particular group of street children (foundlings, the lost, etc.)

Most street children work or beg by themselves because most perform marginal work, which mainly is individual, or private work. Work is considered an individual activity but a small number of children work for others.

The study clarified that the working children group receives the highest income, compared to other groups, including those who combine working and begging or more than two types of work. The reason for this is because working street children are the eldest among all street children groups.

Most street children stated that a large part of their income contributes to their families’ needs. It’s indicated that 92.9 percent of children whose families live in Sana’a city assist their families financially; whereas 85 percent of children whose families live outside Sana’a assist their families financially.

Socially speaking, street children largely are exposed to practices and behaviors that are against the law and the social value system. Some are homosexuals and some (both males and females) are sexually assaulted or raped, while many take drugs and some others practice prostitution. Nevertheless, some criminal-oriented gangsters use children to steal or deal drugs, as well as facilitate prostitution acts.

Homeless children are liable to acquire other types of deviant behavior and attitudes like lying, deception, trickery, running away from school, smoking, chewing qat, taking drugs and oral sexual acts.

According to the study’s data and statistics, street children’s relations with their families are characterized by solidarity, cooperation and mutual scrutiny. But some families experience instability due to marriage problems.

Some fathers believe the street children phenomenon isn’t caused by family problems, but rather by poverty. During a focus group discussion, one father explained, “I was married to four wives. We had no problems, although each wife gave birth to a child per year. After my economic situation worsened, I divorced three of them. Now I don’t know where my kids are. I only have the kids from the fourth wife and they dropped out of school. They work and beg and the reason is poverty.”

Educational situation

For the most part, the family decides whether or not to enroll children in basic education, depending on the social and economic situations. It also depends more on family members’ attitudes toward education than the child’s willingness to learn.

The field study survey indicated that 62.9 percent of children in the sample were enrolled in school, which is a very low percentage compared to the enrolment rate of children aged 6-15 in Sana’a city during the 1994-95 academic year.

Representing 62.9 percent of the total number of children in the survey, 401 were enrolled in school. Among those, 56 (representing 14 percent) indicated that they didn’t want to stop working and/or begging, while 345 (representing 86 percent) stated that they do want to quit working and/or begging so they can attend school.

The problem with street children is that they suffer from low levels of achievement in school. Most obtain weak results on their exams and the failure of many of them is repeated.

The study attributed street children’s low school enrolment to poverty. Other factors include the nature of the school curriculum, the nature of the relationship between the school and the family and between teachers and students.

The education currently available in schools suffers various aspects of deficiency which contribute to increased dropout rates. From the perspective of street children and their families, such deficiencies can be summarized as follows:

– Lack of social workers in schools

– Low levels of teacher efficiency and using severe methods to punish students

– Lack of facilities and necessary educational media in schools

– Crowded classrooms

– The government doesn’t provide school operational equipment

– Education is costly

– Teachers themselves sometime are absent from school and inefficient in their tasks