In a country with 350,000 orphans, chronic poverty, civil strife and high HIV/AIDS infection rates, it should come as little surprise that there are around six thousand street children in the Central African Republic, half of whom live in the capital city of Bangui where they are at increased risk of child trafficking and abduction for forced labour, domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. Many of these street children are also sold abroad to Cameroon, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This short video documentary takes you onto the night time streets of Bangui and explores what life is like there for street children who live there, a growing problem that doesn't appear to even be on the radar of the government.
Many of these children can be seen begging on the streets to provide for themselves and often young siblings. In a country where education isn't accessed by many in any event, these street children are just turned away at educational or health resources and are stigmatised by a society that simply doesn't and can't care for them.
As one former street kid reported "I saw many of my friends die of AIDS - they did not know where to go for treatment because they were street children, many of them were HIV-positive or had sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), like gonorrhoea or syphilis." The 25 year old who had spent eleven years on the streets after his parents died also noted "The street children are involved in many sexual relationships and there is a great deal of sexual violence, mainly against girls, but also against boys."
Another explained how he became one of the street children living rough in Bangui. "When my mother and father went to work in Angola they decided to take three daughters with them but not me. During the night when we want to sleep we look for pieces of cardboard. Before we sleep we pray and sing for God and after that we can sleep in a group, not alone. When its raining it's not possible to sleep on this walkside so we cross the road and go under the terrace on the other side of the street. When the rain is too strong it enters under the terrace so we have to stay standing up until morning."
Another of the street children in the Central African Republic explained "My mother died and my father left the kids. So I was in my grandmother's home and I decided to go in the streets to find something to eat and give it to my brothers and sisters." Others work on the streets undertaking tasks such as carrying heaving loads of water for just 13p a day.
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