Alarming rise in the number of street children: UN report

The United Nations Economic and Social Development had in its recent survey said the number of street children across the world was around 150 million, and the number was increasing at an alarming rate.
It estimated that there would be around 25 million street children in Asia by the end of 2020, with India alone housing more than four-fifth of them.

After the UN survey, a Coimbatore-based NGO conducted a study in a child shelter home and found that poverty, alcoholic parents, lack of love at home were the main causes that lead the children to come to streets.
The study carried out on “Don Bosco Anbu Illam,” a shelter home for street children in Coimbatore, found that the city had nearly 15,000 street children.
The shelter home is directed towards the elimination of child labour and protection of street children from abuse and exploitation through education awareness and community empowerment programmes. It also conducts various health and educational programmes for the deprived children.
The study touched on the deteriorating health conditions of street children. According to it, they suffer from skin ailment, tuberculosis, sores, rickets, scabies, bacterial and parasitic infection such as cholera, typhoid, gastroenteritis, amoebic dysentery and tetanus. It said about 46 percent of the street children are below 12 years of age and the remaining are in the age group of between 12-18 years.

Director of the Coimbatore's Don Bosco Anbu Illam, John Dharman says that this child shelter is only for boys and whenever he finds any female child, he informs agencies or centres dealing with the female street children. “We started a shelter home wherein food, stay and other basic things necessary for their livelihood are provided to them free of cost. We also provide them formal and informal education, and once they finish a certain level of education, we give them vocational training. The idea is that they would get a job and be self-dependent,” Dharman added.
He further says: “The type of children who have arrived here are basically run away children from their homes because of poverty or lack of love at home. In terms of the abused children, the percentage varies in terms of physically abused and sexually abused. We have been getting many cases in the recent past. People trap for labour and eventually sexually abuse them.”

Parasnath, a street child recently shifted to a child shelter, said: “I had studied up till 6th standard, my father forced me to quit the school and asked me to take up a job.
I was getting 50 rupees per week and I used to spend that money to buy food and other household items. Despite this my father showed more love and affection to my younger brother. They always treated me as their enemy so I decided to run away from my house. Later, I joined a workshop where they used to beat and torture me. So, I escaped from that place even. Subsequently, after a couple of days when I was trying to settle down near a railway station, some people picked me up and took me to this shelter home. Now, I am studying well.”
The study found that that most of the street children worked as petty hawkers, shoeshine boys, scavengers, while some indulge in stealing or street prostitution. It is believed that they are prone to indulge into such unfair practices as they have nobody to protect or feed them.

Krishnamoorthy, another street child living in the child shelter, said: “My father and mother both were in a habit of consuming liquor. They used to spend all money in their liquor. They asked me to go for begging on streets. I didn't like begging which made me run away from my house.
After that I was caught by the local police for committing theft in a hostel. Afterwards, my parents took me back home.

Then again, they asked to beg on the streets for their liquor so I ran away from the house again and joined this shelter home.” 

8 July 2005

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