Street Children

“The term ‘street children’ was first used by Henry Mayhew in 1851 when writing London Labour and the London Poor. However, it only came into general use after the United Nations Year of the Child in 1979.... Before this street children were referred to as homeless, abandoned, or runaways” (Scanlon and others, 1998: 1597). (Toepfer, 16). Street children are described but not defined as children that have no home.  They may or may not have families although their families have to be homeless as well.  Street children in Kenya gave the following definitions of a street child: “a child who eats from a dustbin; a child who feeds on waste food that is spoiled and rotten; one who comes from a poor family; one who sleep out anywhere because he has no parents; a child with a glue-sniffing addiction; one who begs on streets but goes home; a child who does not wash and dresses badly” (Kariuki, 1999: 11).  UNICEF has estimated that there were some 100 million street children worldwide in 1992 (Epstein, 1996).48 Ennew and Milne (1990) reckons that some 71 million of these worked on the streets, about 23 million mostly work and live on the streets, and some 7 million were abandoned children. Glasser (1994) reports that there are significant numbers of abandoned children who live in institutions. In Brazil, for example, there are over 500,000 minors in government-related institutions. The large numbers of orphans in institutions around the world has been highlighted through media attention. Major catastrophes tend to generate orphan populations. Glasser (1994) recalls the devastating famines in the Soviet Union after World War I when as many as 5 million children were begging on city streets or were in institutions.  The street children are one of the great tragedies of the modern world.  I can understand feeling prejudiced about someone who possibly lost their life’s saving from drugs or gambling but the street children have done nothing to deserve their fate.