Child protection

Egypt Programme Profile: Child Protection

Street children: issues and impact

Working children: issues and impact

Female genital mutilation: issues and impact

 

Street children: issues and impact

© UNICEF Egypt
Many street children identify violence as a major problem in their lives

It might be hard to tell how many children are living on the street in Egypt, but one thing is clear--the numbers are very large and almost certainly growing. With the difficulty of quantifying the phenomenon, NGOs estimate that at least tens of thousands of street children in the country, most of them in the cities of Cairo and Alexandria.

These children lead an unhealthy and often dangerous life that leaves them deprived of their basic needs for protection, guidance, and supervision and exposes them to different forms of exploitation and abuse. For many, survival on the street means begging and sexual exploitation by adults.

World Health Organization studies show that street children suffer from health problems ranging from cholera to tuberculosis and anemia, and that they are exposed to a variety of toxic substances, both in their food and in the environment around them. They are also at risk of various kinds of abuse. In a survey in 2000, 86 percent of street children identified violence as a major problem in their life. In another survey, 50 percent stated that they had been exposed in some manner to rape.

UNICEF is working with NGOs such as Hope Village Society, CARITAS and the Egyptian Association for the Protection of Children in Alexandria and Qena to improve the lives of street children and to educate and empower individual boys and girls. The project is being implemented through reception centers targeting street children.

The centres, set up to deal specifically with the problems faced by street children, provide them with meals and the space to rest or engage in recreational activities.

UNICEF supports the centres by training social workers on the rights of children and the risks that the children face on the street, and also by providing training directly to the children themselves through the social workers. The centres also provide health services ranging from check-ups to hospital referrals.

A number of the children at the centres are trained to act as “mentors” to other children living on the street. The children are trained to understand and deal with the potential health threats of living on the street, and then pass this information on to their peers on the street.

 

© UNICEF Egypt
"White Book" allows children to reflect on their lives and their future

In another initiative implemented by CARITAS and four other NGOs in Cairo and Alexandria, street children are encouraged to reflect on their lives and to express their thoughts and hopes about their future. The children do this in a creative, participatory manner by compiling pictures, drawings, poems and stories which are to be published in the “White Book of Our Future”.
 
Supporting the work on the ground, and building on the National Strategy for the Protection and Rehabilitation of Street Children (launched in early 2003 under the auspices of the First Lady, Suzanne Mubarak), the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, supported by UNICEF, began developing a National Plan of Action for Street Children involving all concerned partners. Focus will be on children already living rough, ensuring that they receive access to the basic services they are deprived of. The rehabilitation and reintegration of street children back into society will be the focus, along with changes to the 1996 Child Law that will street children as victims and at-risk rather than as deviants and criminals, as is currently the case.

 

 
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