Children who live and work on the street
Mali remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Over the past few years, largely due to foreign aid and investment, the country has experienced remarkable political stability, strengthening of the democratic process and the beginning of decentralization.
Little data exists on the situation of vulnerable children, their exploitation and abuse, though a link between economic need, cultural and traditional factors, poverty and exploitation is certain. The national survey on child labour conducted in 2005 revealed that working children are a real cause for concern, especially girls from rural areas who work as domestic labour. Other fragmented surveys show that 50 per cent of children and 40 per cent of parents have little knowledge of children’s rights and international conventions.
Currently, there are a growing number of orphans and other vulnerable children living in Bamako and other major cities of Mali. Most of these children come from poor families, separated/divorced couples and families affected by HIV/AIDS. There are also many abandoned children or children fleeing violence, parental abuse and abuse by koranic school teachers to whom they are entrusted.
These children, many of whom come from surrounding and distant villages, flock into the slums of the capital and major cities. A vast majority work of children who live on the street get by via begging (almost 67 per cent), stealing (6 per cent), and charity 8 per cent), or though some form of support from their parents (2 per cent). Six per cent of children who live on the street must work on to make ends meet, often as sex workers. These vulnerable children are living on the margins.
Almost all children attending Koranic school in Bamako come from Mopti, Segou and Kayes regions. These children are socially excluded from education and health services, and are extremely vulnerable to physical abuse (assault and sexual violence), health and epidemiological risks (HIV/AIDS and opportunitistic infections due to unsanitary living conditions) and psychological risks (behavioural disorders). These migrant children are also the most vulnerable to trafficking, sexual and economic exploitation.
Child protection is exacerbated by community-based traditions, rural-to-urban migration, a poor connection between basic and specialized services for rehabilitation and reintegration, and inadequate knowledge and capacity of stakeholders at various levels. All of these gaps combine to allow children to become increasingly vulnerable.