Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The invisible people

(a girl from Ethiopia)

I can’t stop thinking about what I heard the other day on TV, where they were covering the life of the street children of Nepal, someone described them as: “The invisible people”.
Those worlds are still reverberating in my mind all along since then, as they do not sound right and are very disturbing.
Street children are the sons and daughters of poverty, development, materialism and the collapsing of moral and spiritual values. They are the victims of a failing system, the innocent sufferers of a collective selfishness.
They live on the streets for several different reasons; many are orphans who lost their parents from HIV, malaria, typhus, starvation, etc. Others are abused children coming from dysfunctional family environment, who ran away from their homes escaping from the daily physical and moral abuse they are subjected to. Some of them are even born on the streets.

Some facts about street children:

  • Recent global estimates indicate there are 100 million street children. Other more localized studies point to 11 million in India, 1 million in U.S., 445,226 in Bangladesh, 250,000 street children in Kenya, 150,000 in Ethiopia, 30,000 in Nepal and 12,000 in Zimbabwe. Projections estimate an increasing number of street children, growing especially with the pace of urbanization.
  • These street children include: children living on the street with no home at all, children spending most of their time on the streets, without opportunities for education and care; and child workers who spend most of their time working on the street.
  • The United Nations estimates that between 133 million and 275 million children experience violence at home annually, with the largest proportion in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Boys and girls are often equally subjected to child abuse by family members and are equally victimized by child labour exploitation. However, globally, girls make up 98 per cent of children who are sexually exploited. Child abuse is a major risk factor linked to future criminal behaviour.
(a girl from Ethiopia)
  • Helping street children is a though challenge, as these children usually need a long period of rehabilitation. It can take many months or years to firstly build up their trust, as they have normally endured only pain and abuse from adults. So it is a long-term work of commitment and rarely a quick fix that they need to help them release their potential.
  • Observers say that street children have a life expectancy of around four years on the street.
  • UNICEF estimates that over 2 million children, mainly girls, are exploited through prostitution and pornography. 1.2 million girls and boys are trafficked each year – many to join the sex trade.
  • Law and order officials and self-styled vigilantes both attempt to ‘clean the street’ of these children in many parts of the world. In Latin America the problem is particularly acute with the worst offenders being Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras. An average of three street children are killed every day in the state of Rio de Janeiro. In Cairo, street children are routinely rounded up and beaten by the police, their heads are shaven and then they are transferred to crowded detention centres.
  • Studies conducted in Nepal and Guatemala showed that urban street children were in better health than children in stable homes in farming villages: an indicator of the depths of rural poverty in these countries rather than a recommendation for life on the street.
(Village children - Zambia)

None of these children are invisible, we see them everywhere we go, in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. The number is increasing at an unbelievable rate, as governments are failing to implement proper corrective measures to solve the economic and social problems affecting the source of their miserable existence.

“The worst sin towards our fellow creatures
is not to hate them, but to be indifferent
to them; that is the essence of inhumanity.”
-George Bernard Shaw

(Information for this post has been compiled from information sources of UNICEF, World Hope, Human Rights Watch, and others.)


standing on my head said...

the eyes of the children in your photos make me cry. how do we make a difference here? my heart hurts.

Gabriela Abalo said...

My heart hurts too and I'm also lost on which is the best way to help.
The most desperate part is that felling of being helpless.
But I'm looking for ways to make a change, it doesn't' matter how small or big, what really matter is to give it a try. Even if we change the life of only one… the effort is more than worthy.
Hope this post brings awareness and makes them “visible”, so we can contribute to a global solution.

“I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on man unless they act. “ ~G.K. Chesterton


Tag said...

Heart-rending photos and facts Gabi, I like the start you are making. This is a global problem with local solutions. We can be part of that solution by bringing the problem into the light as your wonderful photographs do and acting in our local area. Compassion once again is the key to a better life for all of us including our children and aren't they all ours?

Yvonne Osborne said...

What sad pictures of beautiful children. There is so much poverty and injustice and environmental destruction in the world it's easy to get bogged down. It's easy to be overwhelmed and think there's nothing we can do. It's tempting to turn off the news and shut the world out. Tempting.

I like the Shaw quote. The opposite of good is not evil but apathy.

Thanks for a thoughtful post.

Kass said...

Before I married him, my second husband had adopted a 5-year-old street child from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was African American and had a hard adjustment when the family moved to Utah. When I met him he was in his twenties and we didn't have much interaction. My favorite story about him was the ride home he made with his new parents after everything was made legal. He was sitting in the back seat and as the car thumped across regular seams in the road, he was chanting, "Oh, I got a mom and I got a dad, oh, I got a mom and I got a dad....."

Wine and Words said...

"innocent sufferers of a collective selfishness." Wow!

My church supports a village in Lesotho Africa. We raise money all year, build schools, dig wells, etc. Over 150 of us each support one of the children monthly. It is never enough, and we are always encouraged to do more. My husband plays in a poker game every other Friday. The guys created a wheel covered in percentages from 10 to 90. After the game, each guy spins the wheel to determine how much of his winnings go into the bucket, not the pocket. They use this money for more drinking water in Lesotho. It is never enough, but I do not wish to be part of the collective selfishness.

Gabriela Abalo said...

So true dear Tag, we can start making a difference by acting in our own neighborhoods. We don’t need to cross oceans to help, as street children are everywhere - not only in Africa. Majority of African and Asian street children are victims of poverty. But many street children in the US and other develop countries are victims of sexual and emotional abuse.
We can just start by not ignoring the problem and looking for ways to bring change – which doesn’t imply money – money is not always the best solution. Sometimes all they need is to be involved in some social activities that make them feel part of something. Here in Zambia there is an NGO that is teaching them acting and dancing, you have to see how much these children have change!
Thanks for joining me in this very small start and thank you for sharing it on your facebook.


Kirk Jusko said...

The IMF and World Bank can help simply by canceling the crushing debts of so many Third World countries.

Anonymous said...

you help the most by accomplishing your mission on earth

Anonymous said...

When I started the paragraph, it stirred me that you will mention something against but probably was going to suppress thought. It came out well

The moment you switched to “facts” you drove the point in. You see, I once informed a friend that NGO do exist to use logistic/financial support mechanism to the 85 % extent on employees and the rest towards giving leap service to the affected. Their ideologies do not even train the employees to support any of the affected. Most of the people who create NGOs or seek the Job from them have unwarranted ambition to create self wealth. SA…..AAAAD!!!!

Thanks Gaby, Carry on.
Alfred Kandie

mouse (aka kimy) said...

wonderful photos.

thanks for your concise report and help spreading the word about this very important issue.