The phenomenon of street children
About the phenomenon of street children
There are no accurate figures for the number of “street children” in Egypt due to the difficulty of defining which children need to be included in the surveys.
Some studies count only those who are homeless, abandoned and completely cut off from family as street children. The reality is that street children vary in age, gender, the factors that pushed them to the street, and the degree of relationships they have with their families.
An informal survey conducted by I the Egyptian resulted in an estimate of about 60 percent of street children with regular or intermittent relations with their families.
- Some children live with their families, but are pushed into working in the streets by their own families for income generation purposes. This can easily develop into them living full-time in, as well as working on, the street as the families are often dysfunctional and violent, so the streets become a haven for the children.
- Another pattern of street existence is when the child is in the street with his/her family, usually the mother, where they all try to generate income from the street or live in the street.
There are pull factors that might keep the children in the street despite being provided with other options. The street is a social milieu where the children have income generation opportunities, fun and entertainment without restrictions or structure, and opportunities to learn new skills; consequently often the children will reject opportunities that come with structure and constraints. However, in the streets, the children are subjected to a variety of risks and dangers. They are often subjected to emotional, physical and sexual abuse by their families and/or older street leaders/children. As their main income sources are through begging, petty theft, petty trade and/or prostitution, they are periodically rounded up by the police and jailed. Obviously, they suffer from poor health and hygiene, with problems such as malnutrition and anemia as well as various drug addictions and psychological problems such as self harm.