Street children in Mexico and Vietnam
A Voice to the Children
Hang is 8 years old and lives in Vietnam. The quite nimble and skilled girl tells us: “My father is a drug addict and my mother is in jail. This could be my future, too. No one is teaching me how to distinguish good things from bad things. So who has the responsibility to raise me, except myself?”
The term "street children" is used to denominate those kids who are without care and protection by adults. They can be found living in abandoned buildings, cardboard boxes or simply behind bridges, searching for refuge from cold weather, abuse, negligence and exploitation.
Statistics from UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) show that around 100 million children spend much of their time on the street where they are easily abused and exploited. According to a study by Mexico's National Agency for Family Development in 2004, some 108,917 children live on the streets in Mexico. Mexico's national statistics office estimates that 3.6 million children under the age of 18 work, and of those, 41.5% do not attend school.
Furthermore, street children face many dangerous pitfalls of society. According to a report by The Joint United Nations Program on AIDS (UNAIDS), Vietnam has about 8500 HIV infected children, most of whom live on the streets and are under the age of 16. They try to make some money by working as street vendors, selling newspapers and lottery tickets, or as shoe shiners; some see themselves forced to beg, collect rubbish or steal. But they still do not have enough money to pay for education and daily needs such as medical treatment, food, fresh water, etc.
Hang, the Vietnamese girl, works on the street to provide basic necessities for her family. She used to sell chewing gum in the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. Like Hang, another girl named Ngan sells chewing gum and lottery tickets on the streets. Her parents, her two brothers and her twin sister all work together on the streets.
The government, non - governmental organizations, and donors have many programs that attempt to improve the living conditions for street children. These include a charity (SOS Enfants des Rues du Vietnam) of a French-Swiss Humanitarian Organization, Vietnamese classes of vocational training and soft skills for homeless or street children, Mexico's National Agency for Family Development. Some programs provide housing, food and education. However much more attention is necessary to help the street children out of their misery.