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Outreach A Lifeline For Ethiopia's Street Kids

Child Labour News Service, 2 May 2000

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia‘No one knows how many thousands of street children roam Ethiopia’s capital city. Their numbers are so vast and their situations so varied that it is impossible to know how to begin to find them all.

It is one of the most pressing problems facing Addis Ababa today. On every street corner there is a young boy looking for someone’s shoes to shine, or a tiny girl selling bags of peanuts.

Getting these innocents off the streets is not easy. When the income of a street child is the only thing keeping his family alive, it is impossible to stop him working. Children as young as five are known to work a patch somewhere in the sprawling capital - home to more than a million people,

Forum on Street Children Ethiopia (FSCE) a growing NGO based in Addis Ababa has found that operating within the flawed system is the only conceivable way to have an influence.

Fassil Marriam, executive director of FSCE, said: We have to adopt a community-based approach involving the families as well as the children. We cannot tell the children not to work, but we can try and make sure they get some sort of an education, and that they have access to food and clean water.

One of the most distressing areas of the infant market place is the large child prostitution racket. Young girls come to the capital every day drawn by the buzz of the big city.

The problem is so advanced that FSCE operates a drop-in centre for girls who have been, or could be involved in prostitution.

It also caters for street children who lack a safe place to sleep.

Often the street children are awake all night because they are afraid that they will be raped or sexually assaulted, says Emebet Mulugete, a social worker.

Child prostitution is on the increase in Ethiopia partly because of a new awareness of the high number of people who have contracted HIV in the country. The perception is that child prostitutes will not yet have the virus and are safe.

Over the last three years 22 girls have graduated into stable jobs and lifestyles in the city.

These success stories give the girls at the centre hope.

For more information please contact the World Education Forum media co-ordination office at Tel (221) 826 80 52 or (221) 641 8281 or Email a.muller@unesco.org; Website: www.education.unesco.org/efa