150 MILLION CHILDREN LIVE ON THE STREETS GLOBALLY (UNICEF, 2005)
10,000 – 20,000 ESTIMATED NUMBER OF STREET WORKING CHILDREN IN CAMBODIA (UNICEF, 2006)
33% OF CHILDREN ON THE STREETS OF PHNOM PENH ARE BETWEEN THE AGES OF SIX TO TEN (FRIENDS INTERNATIONAL, 2014)
1 IN 5 CAMBODIAN LIVES BELOW THE POVERTY LINE (UNICEF, 2013)
Read Srey’s Story
For Srey*, home was any place on the streets where she could lay her head for the night. As a street child, she has had to fend for herself from a young age. Her mother died when she was eight, leaving her with her sickly father.
“I became more mature,” she says simply. “I did not go to school. When I was small, I was a scavenger. I always had to think about food first.” To survive, Srey sifted through garbage to find recyclable materials to sell. The meagre earnings she scraped together allowed her to buy some food, but it was barely enough to get by.
Life on the streets is dangerous, and children are especially vulnerable. There is no shelter from the elements and there are never-ending waves of mosquitoes, making it difficult to sleep. When street children do sleep, there is the constant lingering fear of being abused or raped. Living conditions are squalid and people looking to exploit children prowl the streets.
When Srey was 12, she met a wealthy foreigner who offered her a treasure trove of empty cans to recycle and asked if she and her friends wanted to take a “fun” boat ride to a nearby island. There, he raped them.
Srey never told her ill father about the incident. He died a year later, leaving Srey an orphan on the streets at 13.
*name has been changed to protect her identity
What Forces Them into Such Situations?
In Cambodia, following the Khmer Rouge years of genocide, many children were orphaned, abandoned, or separated from their families and left with nowhere to go but the streets. Poverty and landlessness further contribute to the street children problem as it drives rural-urban migration. Children and families move in search of a better life, but in reality find themselves unable to afford basic commodities, education, and healthcare due to inflated prices in cities and are stuck on the streets.
What Can Be Done?
Meet basic needs and set children up for future success
Shelter, nutritious meals, healthcare and counselling are some of the main ways World Vision helps street children recover holistically. To ensure that they do not become dependent on external help, these children are enrolled in school or given informal education or vocational training.
Re-integrate children with their families
As far as possible, World Vision re-integrates children with their immediate or extended family. This allows children to lead as normal a life as possible. An assessment by trained social workers is conducted to ensure that families are able to care for the child, and support is provided to families to earn an income, to prevent children from returning to street life.
Empower the local community to lead change
World Vision equips local stakeholders with skills and builds strong networks among the police force, faith leaders, related government institutions and local charities, so that they can effectively address the street children problem in their spheres of influence. This is done through training, organizing dialogue sessions and setting up proper mechanisms to report street children issues.