Street Children in Egypt

Street Children in Egypt




When thoughts turn to children in Africa in need of child sponsorship, Egypt is probably one of the least likely countries to spring to mind. Yet, in what is a relatively prosperous country by African standards, there are an indeterminate number of street children in Egypt. Some put the figure in the tens of thousands, others put the figure at over a million; some much higher. One of the reasons for this vast discrepancy is that, until recently, these have been forgotten children and no records have been kept as to their number.

Police records shed some insight into the numbers with 42,505 children being arrested on the streets in 2001 with 10,958 of them being charged with being 'vulnerable to delinquency', that is they have committed a crime just by having no responsible adult to care for them. The average age of those arrested was thirteen years old. Most of these children try and support themselves by shining shoes, selling trinkets, begging and cleaning. However for many life is more than harsh with most doing whatever is needed to survive.

Street Children in Egypt

Most report that they have been subjected to violence and have also been subjected to some form of rape. Many of these children end up on the streets to find work in a country where 40% live below the poverty line or escape violence at home. One thirteen year old describes life after he ran away from home aged just nine. “When I see other children on their way to school, I wish I could be like them. Here on the streets, I have no future.” Two thirds of these street children in Egypt, an issue which is by no means exclusive to Cairo, state that they misuse substances ranging from glue to Bungo ~ local cannabis. Reasons cited include stress, to aid sleep on the streets, cope with pain and hunger and to numb the violence inflicted by other, older street children, security forces and even the general public. In fact 86% of street children in a survey stated that violence was the main issue for them whilst homeless.

During the recent revolution in Egypt there were allegations that the Mubarak regime paid street children to throw rocks at protesters and take the front line in anti-protest demonstrations, putting them in danger. Some reports estimate that of the 300 hundred killed in the protests, the majority were street children encouraged to support their then president in return for a little money or not being threatened with arrest and detained in adult prison cells where they would have been at further risk. Some were simply bribed by being offered a ride on a horse whilst confronting demonstrators. Similarly there were allegations that protestors gave food and water to the street children in Cairo to throw rocks and Molotov cocktails at security forces. Whatever the truth, its a fact that one in four thrown in jail following the clashes was a child.

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