Why are street children usually shunned, ignored and excluded?
Although seen living and working on the streets in many countries street children are often demonised and despised by the public and authorities alike. As a result they are not reached by the very services that are meant to help them. They do not go to school, receive immunisations or other health care. They are vulnerable to violence and abuse from the society and its law enforcement agencies. The children themselves have adopted the term ‘street children’ as it gives them an identity and sense of belonging. The exact number worldwide is very difficult to estimate as many are in fact ‘invisible’ as discussed below.
Many are in touch with their families, making a poor living to support their families. Others however have either been abandoned by their parents or have run away from home to escape abusive and violent relationships. The majority are boys as girls seem to stay in the family group longer, but when they do run away they are less likely to return.
On the streets the children are open to all forms of violence, exploitation, sexual abuse and cruelty. They are usually malnourished and in poor health. Many die on the streets from hunger, disease or violence.
People who are supposed to help them often abuse them. They children are often in conflict with the police who have been known to beat and kill the youngsters. There have been reports of ‘mob rule’ where the children are hunted down and killed in attempt to rid an area of the problems of street children.