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PAKISTAN: 1.2 Million Street Children Abandoned and Exploited [news]

An estimated 1.2 million children are on the streets of Pakistan's major cities and urban centres, constituting the country's largest and most ostracised social group. These include 'Runaway' children who live or work on the street, as well as the minority that return to their families at the end of the day with their meagre earnings.

According to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) survey, 72% of working children do not have contact with their families and 10% have no knowledge of their families.

"World Vision is gravely concerned with their growing numbers. Children are turningto the streets amidst increasing poverty, unemployment, swelling family size and social disintegration seen in abuse in schools, as well as domestic violence, neglect and family breakdown," said World Vision Country Director, Sigurd Hanson.

Statistics bode ill for this nation where more than 40% of the population is under 15, 48 million people live below the poverty line and earn less than US.00 a day. Nine out of 100 children die before they reach their first birthday. Half the population is illiterate.

"Street wise" as early as four, these children beg and scavenge around rubbish dumps or industrial waste sites or take on menial jobs as cart pushers or dish washers, working 12-15 hours a day to earn around 75 rupees or US.25- enough to buy a meal if they are fortunate. Most survive by prostituting themselves, stealing or smuggling, making them vulnerable to contracting sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Jaundice and liver or kidney disorders. A large proportion
sniffs cheap, readily available solvents to starve off hunger, loneliness and fear.

Child 'rental' for begging is a new and increasingly popular phenomenon among poor households. Parents 'rent' their children out to an individual or group and both parties share the child's earnings. The inhumane treatment drives children to drugs and into the arms of criminal gangs who promise protection, food and a better life.[Source: CRIN]

Posted on 2005-05-04

Asian Human Rights Commission
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