Huancayo (Fides Service) - “More than 3000 children work to support their families on building sites, in mines, plantations, brick-making, civil building hands, selling sweets and crafts items on the streets. Many are made to do jobs which are meant for adults”. This was denounced in a report sent to Fides from Huancayo archdiocese in Peru.
The local Church says, “according to daily reports to the police 95% of children suffer psychological and physical abuse in the family, at school. About 10% lives in the streets sleeping in squares, doorways, empty buildings. They live off public charity. They have left their families because the parents separated or because of violence or poverty.”
In 2003 police identified 500 minors (boys and girls) were involved in prostitution forced by their parents or gang leaders who frequent entertainment centres. This figure is alarming for a city with a population of 150, 000. In the same year the authorities identified about 30 children with AIDS some of whom are now being cared for at the San Juan Dieg Children’s Home opened by the archdiocese of Huancayo with the help of other institutions.
5 % of minors under 12 have already used alcohol, drugs, particularly terokal glue used by cobblers. 40% of minors are not recognised by their father and therefore depend on their mother and they are “nameless””.
Another problem reported by the Archdiocese is: “open trafficking of children: in a month as many as 15 children disappear and most are never found. Some parents are forced by necessity to sell their children”.
Faced with this tragedy, in keeping with the Pope’s Lenten call for solidarity with children, the archdiocese of Huancayo declared 2004 “Year of Solidarity with Children, Street Children especially”. Activities have been particularly intense during Lent.
One of the main objectives is to increase awareness: this tragedy which affects thousands of children cannot leave people, institutions, government indifferent. Local and regional committees were set up to promote respect for the rights of children and adolescents. There is also a multi-sector programme for children which provides assistance and care.
Archbishop José Ríos Reynoso, apostolic Administrator of Huancayo lunched an appeal for solidarity for these children and adequate measures to solve this serious problem. The President of the regional government, Manuel Duarte Velarde, praised the initiative and promised to work to help street children. The mayor of Huancayo, Fernando Barrios Ipenza, stressed the urgent need to unite forces to put an end to this inhuman situation which afflicts many of Huancayo’s children. (R.Z.) (Agenzia Fides 13/3/2004; righe 37 - parole 505)