Wednesday, 21 January 2004

Madrid (Fides Service ) - “Ninety million of the world’s children live on the streets geographically distributed as follows: 40 million in Latin America, 10 million in Africa, where the phenomenon is relatively new and most of the remaining 40 million in Asia, 18 million of these in India alone”. This situation was the subject of an editorial in the December issue of Mundo Negro monthly published by the Comboni Missionaries in Spain. Moreover, Comboni missionaries say the “most concerning aspect of the phenomenon of street children is that governments tend to ignore it, or worse, they pursue the children as delinquents who ruin the image of their cities”.
The Missionaries describe the serious and tragic situation of many children all over the world “totally abandoned to their destiny” a situation which “one of most shameful tragedies of modern society”. “In Africa the root of the problem is that in recent years many governments have installed free market economies which have increased poverty”. Poverty pushes people to abandon rural areas in search of better living conditions in large cities where they are usually unable to find work and only swell the numbers of the city poor. “Most street children come for poor homes, their parents unable to provide for them treat them badly, forcing them to fend for themselves”. This is why in developing countries as well as in great western cities we see children begging on the streets, cleaning shoes or car windscreens …”. At night they shelter under bridges or abandoned buildings, shop doorways, or under makeshift shelters of cardboard.
“Mundo Negro” calls attention to the fact that “was and the AIDS pandemic heighten the problem producing hundreds of thousands of orphans many of whom destined to the streets in city centres”. The editorial urges people to “pressure the international community to implement the United Nations Convention on Children’s Rights”.
The tragic plight of street children in Central America was highlighted by the Italian Jesuit publication Popoli in a recent Dossier “Growing up on the Streets” where it is said: “For several decades the shadow of a particular type of youth group has spread in the outlying districts of the great cities of Latin American. The press, police and public opinion refer to these groups in different ways: bands, gangs, Parcae, etc. In Central America they are usually referred to as pandilla or mara. Their image is strongly influenced by the media, which describes the young people as infernal monsters, delinquents with whom the only treatment possible is a heavy hand. It is generally thought that these young people are involved in violence, theft, drug peddling. But this vision in black and white has nothing to do with the actual situation. To overcome prejudice it is necessary to know the internal dynamics of these groups, the motives which push a young person to join them.”
(R.Z.) (Fides Service 21/1/2004; lines 40; words 559).