Amsterdam – The estimated worldwide population of street children lies around 150 million. Egypt has around one million street children in Alexandria and Cairo. These children faced many problems that contributed to their astray.
Negligence, child abuse, having siblings already living on the streets, disrupted families, poverty, crime among relatives, drug addiction, selling sex or having sex with adolescents are all identified as risk factors. Few statistics on program strategies are known so far, aside from some UNICEF reports from 2016. Most evidence comes from scientific publications. Assuming that little has changed within a country due to national crisis, the following data might still be accurate for 2018.
Living on the streets has significant consequences for the children’s physical and mental health. A study conducted in 2010 in Alexandria and Cairo examined 857 street children. It reported harassment or abuse in 93% of the children by police or other children.
Within the same sample, 67% were sexually active with multiple sex partners wherefrom 52% has never used condoms. The final result might be a consequence of lack of education, money and access to sexual health education and awareness. In Alexandria, 90% of the street girls reported sexual abuse. Street girls, in general, have poorer outcomes than boys. This could be due to the dominating male presence in street children and vulnerability of girls. Furthermore, 62% report to have used drugs.
The results from Egypt are not unique. It is reported that the same factors and problems occur elsewhere in the developing world. In Tehran, 4.5% of the examined street children were found positive for HIV. A qualitative study conducted in Tehran reports that drug use was more common in children whose parents had drug-use problems. The children report using drug to cope with stress, sadness, pressure, and other problems.
Besides sexual and drug problems, other health-related problems were later identified in street children. A follow-up study published in 2017 reported that respiratory problems were highly prevalent (22.4%) as were skin disorders (16.6%). Skin disorders such as lice infestation, scabies and allergic dermatitis result from poor hygiene from living on the streets. Furthermore, the same study in Egypt found that children below two years were the offspring of the street children aged around 12 years.
Multiple services are required from the authorities to protect children from street violence. Specifically, stabilizing public health services and ensuring the basic needs of the population can prevent families from falling apart in the first place. This will then minimize the number of street children.