Nobody's Children?

Abuse in the family. Abuse in the institutions. Poverty and the non-intervention of social services. The lack of mechanisms to enforce the law. In time, all this led to the increase of the number of children who live and work on the streets. According to statistics produced by the organization "Save the Children," there are around five thousand street children in Romania today. One and a half thousand of these come from families, and five hundred come from foster homes. A survey on child labor shows that more than seventy thousand children are involved in some kind of labor. 70% of the children living in the countryside, aged between 6 and 14, believe that to work is natural. Their daily chores include cooking, feeding animals, cleaning the stables and various tasks pertaining to agriculture. A survey of ILO IPEC and the organization "Save the Children," which has dealt with the street children working in Bucharest, shows that 44% of the latter beg; the rest of them clean cars, sell newspapers, load and unload merchandises, collect recyclable refuse. More than half have no days off, a third of them work eight hours a day (the working hours vary between four and eight). Many of them don't go to school: 62% are dropouts; 25.3% of those who still go to school frequently miss classes in order to work, and more than 19.3% have never been to school. Most of them suffer from skin diseases, tuberculosis or hepatitis. Their health is continuously endangered by their living environment. Most of them claim daily abuse (63% insults, 49% beating), and they are potential victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking.  Dilema veche, 20-26 January 2006

by Stela Giurgeanu