Protecting Street Children in Egypt
The street children phenomenon in Egypt emerged in the 1980s during a time of urban growth and a deteriorating economic situation.
Today, it is difficult to estimate the exact number of street children in Egypt, but experts believe the number is between 1 and 2 million with populations located mainly in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. Street children are considered amongst the poorest and most marginalized groups within their communities, as they do not have access to basic community services. The majority of street children are between the ages of 12 and 16 and 1 in 4 of these children are girls.
Overall, street girls face more adverse circumstances than boys. Without access to health and rehabilitation services, pregnant girls and young street mothers are particularly vulnerable as babies born on the street face a higher risk of death, kidnapping, and abandonment.
Children in Crisis
Violence is one of the main reasons why many children leave home. Family breakups, the divorce of parents, and the imprisonment or death of one or both parents are the main reasons why many children run away from home–especially when the role of the extended family is absent and the child is without emotional support.
According to a study conducted by the National Council of Childhood and Motherhood, 81 percent of children have claimed to be victims of domestic violence.
When asked why many young girls leave home to live on the street, Hend, who manages a reception center for street girls says, “The reason why these girls live on the street is violence. Many of them are abused by their own parents and run away from home. For a girl to spend just one night on the streets, it is extremely dangerous. They are often raped and abused, making it even harder for them to return home."
Plan’s Protection Program Aids Children in Crisis
In 2006, Plan launched a new program to protect street children from all forms of violence, exploitation, and abuse at both the community and national levels.
On a national level, Plan has been proactively promoting and advocating for laws and policies which acknowledge and protect the rights of street children through partnerships and alliances with civil society organizations.
At the local level, Plan has been focused on educating communities on the street child phenomenon and has mobilized community members in becoming more involved with the prevention and early detection of at-risk children and their protection, rehabilitation, and reintegration back into society.
In addition to educational and mobilization efforts, Plan has created reception centers to provide street children with access to recreational, psychosocial, health, and educational services that include group therapy, music, art, vocational training, and awareness sessions on issues such as addiction and sexual abuse and sexually transmitted diseases.
“I live on the streets, but I have always wanted to learn more so that I can support myself in the future. At the center, I have learned many art crafts; it’s fun and useful for my life in future,” says Mona, a 15-year-old street child who has been attending classes at one of the reception centers.
Plan has also set up a mobile unit which makes daily visits to the areas where street children gather in order to provide them with food, clothing, and several services such as medical care, psychological support, legal support, and recreational activities.
Improving the Lives of Children in Need
Since the program’s launch in 2006, Plan has reached more than 14,000 children; 820 children have been reintegrated back into their families and 145 children have been assisted in finding housing and jobs.
In addition to these efforts, Plan's legal support unit has helped more than 100 street children with legal issues such as obtaining a birth certificate and ID card, interpreting marriage contracts, and repaying fines.
With the support of community members and decision makers from all sectors of society, Plan is finding ways to ensure that all children have the opportunity to lead a better life.