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Day of the African Child: Taking action together for the children living on the street

© UNICEF Mozambique / A. Drivdal
Basic education is one essential factor in preventing children from engaging in child labor or leaving their homes to live on the street.

Maputo, 16 June 2008 – The Day of the African Child has been celebrated on June 16 every year since 1991, when it was initiated by the Organization for African Unity (OAU), later replaced by the African Union (AU). It honors those who participated in the Soweto uprising in 1976, on the same day, in which hundreds of school children, demanding their right to be taught in their own language, were shot and killed. It also raises awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to African children.

The theme of this year’s Day of the African Child is ‘taking action for the children living on the street’. Thousands of children in Africa are experiencing violence, exploitation and abuse on a daily basis, and this situation is especially stark for children living and working on the streets.

On the occasion of the 21st annual Day of the African Child, UNICEF calls on governments across the continent to strengthen support systems for children, which provide the basis for a more protective environment within families and communities to keep children safe and strengthen families through the provision of basic social, health and education services.

“These children have already been forced from the protection of their homes, only to be subjected to even greater risks on the streets,” says Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “On the Day of the African Child, and every day, we must do all we can to address the reasons why so many children are separated from their families, and invest in new efforts to protect them, no matter where they live.”

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-0697/Markisz
According to Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, it is necessary to address the reasons why children leave their homes to live on the street.

Widespread poverty, conflicts, HIV and climate change, as well as violence in the home, are forcing more and more children to leave their homes to live and work on the streets, exposed to harm and exploitation. Many others end up in less visible exploitative situations, working in households, on farms, in mines or even in armed groups.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 50 million children have lost one or both parents, almost 15 million of them due to AIDS. Some of them are forced to grow up on their own, with limited or no support from adult caretakers. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of child labor in the world, with more than one third of children aged 5 – 14 engaged in the hardest forms of labor.

“It is important to address the web of risks and vulnerabilities that underlie the many different forms of harm, abuse and exploitation faced by children living or working on the streets,” says Ursula Pais, Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF Mozambique. These different forms of harm include sexual abuse, prostitution, exploitation, trafficking, hazardous labor, violence and lack of access to justice and to services, among others.

“It is important to support actions that reduce disparities faced by children based on geographic or economic obstacles or discrimination based on sex, age, ethnicity or other factors,” says Pais.

“We need to support a protective environment for children, which will boost their development and progress, improve their health, education and well-being and their capacity to be good citizens and productive members of society,” concludes Ursula Pais, Child Protection Specialist at UNICEF Mozambique.

For more information, please contact:

Arild Drivdal, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:  

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:



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