Street Children is a challenging issue for most of underdeveloped and heavily populated countries such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and several other countries of the world but unfortunately, there hasn’t been any motivated effort ever made to widely discuss the matter of “street children” anywhere around the world where the ratio of “street children” is alarmingly high. There is no well-managed, well-coordinated, detailed research and study ever conducted or existing on this issue of prime importance. As of today, over 2.5 million “street children” exist all over the world.
Although, the problem of “street children” has been circulating over centuries but the term “street children” was first defined by “Allan Bill” in his book “The History of Abandoned Children” in 1848. While before, street children were called “wanderers or children without patronage’ over the course of several phases of human history and there has been a continuous rise in street children in different countries of the world. For example, when this book was written, there were over 30,000 ‘street children’ existed in London.
In the sequence of British colonial expansion over other nations and territories of the world, and the whole world was under the dominance of British Empire. India was among the populous regions remained under British control.
Similarly, the World War-1 (1914-1918) brought catastrophic consequences to the world, not only more than 25 million people died mainly in Europe and several other countries which also gave an incessant and horrific rise to the widows and orphans which eventually became the “street children’ without any guided patronage and supervision.
However, after the war, several nations had managed to get a significant control over the issue of street children.
For example, former USSR was among those countries which participated in World War-I and allied with western powers while at the same time, Lenin and Stalin led communist movement was already taking place in Russia which was finally culminated in 1917. However, this revolution remained under jolts till 1924 and Stalin retrieved Russia from the War but till that time, in the World War-I and civil war, more than 05 million people had already died. Till 1922, after the revolution, Russian total population was 85 million, out of which 07 million were ‘street children’. However, when Lenin came into power, then this issue was effectively managed and controlled for next coming years.
Definition of street children.
By definition, “street children” are all those children of 14,15 years of poor children who in the seek of food and livelihood, wander around streets, and live here and there in the roundabouts, streets corners, pavements, old dumped containers etc. in shaggy forms.
“Street children” is a term often used to describe both market children (who work in the streets and markets of cities selling or begging, and live with their families) and homeless street children (who work, live and sleep in the streets, often lacking any contact with their families). At highest risk is the latter group. Murder, consistent abuse and inhumane treatment are the “norm” for these children, whose ages range from 06 to 18. They often resort to petty theft and prostitution for survival.
They are extremely vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. With estimated 90% of them are addicted to inhalants such as shoe glue and paint thinner, which cause kidney failure, irreversible brain damage and, in some cases, death. ( Casa Alianza)
1950, is the phase of history where after World War-II (1945), several nations learned witty lessons from destruction, extermination, poverty and unemployment, lawlessness, homelessness, famine and deprivation etc.
Several countries in Europe, Japan, USA, Kenya, Australia, Canada etc. had resurrected and restructured their overall civil, economical and demographic systems so as to keep up and grow their population in a proportionate capacities in accordance with basic amenities of life to their masses such as food, shelter, clothing, housing, health care, and basic human rights and welfare. Thereby, in those countries, the concepts and trends of family planning, child-birth per family etc. emerged up and flourished. In the period from 1950 onward, the civil and urban development started to develop since then, their population kept increasing at a balanced rate.
China had not really focused deeply on the issue of street children, however, in the mid of 80s, China made a corrective progress towards population control thus introduced ‘the laws of controlling their population and ‘one child per family’ remained a popular slogans by which China managed to control their population drastically. Now, the street children issue is almost equal to none.
Vietnam is in close proximity to China, remained under severe foreign attacks and imposed deliberate war by USA in 1972, the ‘street children’ was a constant pain and dilemma for Vietnam’s social and economical contours. However, later after the war, Vietnam had managed to get control over and reduced the menace of ‘street children’ effectively.
Till 2003, the total number of street children in Vietnam remained as 21,000. With the consolidated efforts by the ‘street educators’ like humanitarian organizations towards creating awareness and care for street children, Vietnam has 15,000 street children recorded in 2007 and according to 2013 statistics, this issue has been reached to the lowest.
Similarly, in Philippines, statistics revealed that in 1998, ‘street children’ were as high as 15,000,00 (1.5 million) in which 70% were boys and 30% girls. Although, several elected governments have tried hard to address this issue and thankfully, they’ve managed to reduce the street children numbers to greater extent.
Romania is among those nations which remained under communism shadow till 1990 and over 20,000 street children are recorded in Romania. However, Romania is taking stern measures to control this issue at ground level.
In Turkey, the official figures of street children are recorded as 30,190 while the unofficial figures mentioned as 88,000.
Greece is the neighboring country of Turkey. Although, Greece doesn’t face street ‘children issue’ at larger extend but still, Greece is traced to be ‘human trafficking’ at high volume where a large number of children are exported through Greece from other countries.
Brazil is among those countries whose economies are rapidly growing and economic activities are actively taking place. Till 2000, due to poverty and economic disparities, street children was among high sensitive and daunted dilemma for Brazil but until recently, Brazil has been continuously improving this issue and by the statistics of 2012, Brazil recorded 23, 973 street children.
Gwenda Roberts, Bangor, Wales, UK.
“Homeless street children, there are lots of these and young people in the city of Cardiff down in South Wales, even more sleeping rough in the London underground! This is a common problem in Wales even in this day and age. A very rough area in Caernarfon where there is a specified are of homeless people living rough due to alcohol and drugs becoming an addiction.”
United States is considered to be among the stable economies of the world and USA has been successfully controlling the ‘street children’ issue for decades but USA itself is crippled with ‘homeless people and children.’ In 2007, the homeless children were recorded as 1.6 million and there was a continuous rise in the homeless children all over USA. In 1970, “CHILD ABUSE AND TREATMENT ACT” was passed for the protection of those children who convert into ‘street children.’ In addition to this, in 1978, ‘RUNAWAY AND HOMELESS YOUTH ACT’ was further promulgated in USA. United States has vast economic resources, and like other European countries, for the protection of children’s rights, education, health, food and shelter, several measures are taken and provided by the government.
Shelley Detlefsen, Portland, Oregon, USA.
“The street kids come into Portland, Oregon (where I currently live) about May and triple our 2,500 homeless population for the summer months. This is a whole generation without hope and since the USA’s welfare systems was been destroyed, they are without support. They are disposable and the vast majority of America ignores them and secretly wishes they would die and go away. Just one of America’s dirty little secrets and in American fashion they’d rather blame the victims than the system that raped these youngsters. I hope this generation rises up and rebels! They certainly are very good at civil unrest and mayhem, they just need to unite. America’s street kids might be in their late teens and 20’s but they street kids and need a future too.
Most foreigners don’t have on their radar America’s HUGE homeless population. The street kids are just one part of the homeless community. We also have more and more school age children who are homeless and their family is living in vehicles. Schools have gone to feeding these kids both breakfast and lunch because it’s the only food they are getting. When summer comes and there is no school kids starve.It’s a huge problem we are trying to find solutions for.
Mexico City has 1,900,000 underprivileged and street children. 240,000 of these are abandoned children. (Action International Ministries)
In the central area of Mexico City there are 11,172 street children. 1,020 live in the street and 10,152 work there. (City of Mexico/Fideicomiso, Report, 1991)
If we take a look at the world from the ‘street children’ perspective, then we will find out that subcontinent is the only region in the world which has highest and alarming number of ‘street children’ exist. The total number of ‘street children’ in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bhutan are over 75.3 million which is a biggest menace for the social, political and economic textures of these countries.
India is the second largest populated country in the world. The economic growth is on continuously improving for the last 7-8 years. According to Human Development Index, in India the poverty line is 32 to 36% but India is the first ever country which has high number of 1.10 million street children wander around in different parts of India. In all the biggest cities such as Mumbai, New Delhi and Calcutta, over 01 million street children exist in each of the city respectively.
Although, United States has been continuously helping India with economic and defense aids, but India is still facing social and economic disparity and contractions. Indian political and social awareness among different sections of society is unparalleled and imbalanced since, the elite and capitalists have griped all over Indian economy especially there is an obvious difference exists between rural and urban population. One of the biggest reasons for this continuous rise in ‘street children’ in India is, the continuous influx of migration from rural to urban areas population in the seek of better lifestyles in cities which caused to turn more 10 million children into ‘street children’. Majority of these children are boys and due to lack of proper nurturing and education, their moral and personality grooming is on continuous decline and living up on indecent moral grounds. In addition, HIV/AIDS is also one of the biggest reasons of rise in ‘street children’ in India.
In Bangladesh, over 0.75 million children are recorded to be of ‘street children’ category. However, as compared to India and Pakistan, Bangladesh presents slightly better picture in terms of street children with respect to its densely populated intensity. In recent past, Bangladesh has taken effective measures for their economic growth which substantially reduced the poverty line and unemployment level. However, Bangladesh is the second vulnerable country after Maldives, 20% of its total area is about to be distinct by coastal waters and ocean tides.
This will further replicate in contractions of low production, poverty rise and unemployment. Whereas, the economic policies of Bangladesh do not indicate that Bangladesh will tackle such issues for the next coming 15 years to come.
While in Pakistan, the total number of ‘street children’ is approximately 1.2 to 1.5 million which is second highest after India. Unfortunately, the governments of these countries have given less attention on the research and study towards the ‘street children’. This growing trend of rise of ‘street children’ in Pakistan is due to ‘Afghanistan-Russia war’ and poverty rise. Besides, lack of proper education and research towards ‘street children’ has also led the continuous rise in ‘street children’.
Azad Foundation a human rights organization along with ‘Save the Children’ in Karachi sponsored ‘street children’ for the ‘street children world cup football’, held in Brazil in 2014 which was won by ‘Pakistan Street Children team.’
Mairead Tagg, Clinical Physiologist, University of Strathclyde, Scotland.
” The plight of street children is an indictment on the world, because children are precious and should be cherished. Every child has a right to be safe, to be cared for and to have a childhood under the terms of the United Nations Charter on the Rights of the Child.
Humans have a long childhood due to our prolonged cerebral development and children need adults and communities to care for them in order to facilitate this. There is no doubt that children’s social, intellectual and physical development is disrupted by a lack of attachment to adult carers who act not only as providers of food, protection, comfort and shelter, but also play a vital role as external regulators of the child’s internal emotional state. Harlow’s studies of baby monkeys deprived of maternal care showed that attachment between a parent and child is a dynamic and essential factor in the development of healthy children. These little monkeys when offered the choice of a surrogate constructed mother that was soft and comforting but which did not provide nourishment or one that provided food but was made of wire, universally chose the soft mother to cling to, indicating that the feeling of being nurtured, cuddled, comforted was even more important than the provision of food.
The physical plight of these desperate children is bad enough, but the lack of safety and protection – the lack of love – is even more distressing. Studies of orphans in Victorian Britain showed that many children in these institutions died of a condition referred to at the time as “marasmus”. These days we refer to it as ” non-organic failure to thrive”. The fact of the matter is that children can die for the want of human touch and human love. They die of loneliness because their hearts are broken, and there is no doubt that mortality rates are very significantly raised in populations of street children – obviously because of their risky circumstances and enforced lifestyles, but also because they know from the core of their being that they are not wanted.
I think what is most moving for me is the fact that in the pictures posted here showing these starving, ragged and unloved children, they are actively showing love and protection for at least one other child. They are giving each other the most precious gift in the world; comfort and love. How can the world look on and not feel shame that these unwanted scraps of humanity who have nothing, who are exploited and victimized by predatory adults, who are allowed to suffer and to die by an uncaring world are STILL so freely giving what we withhold.”