STREET CHILDREN: SOCIO-DEMOGRAPHIC AND HEALTH PROFILE, CHALLENGES AND POSSIBLE INTERVENTIONS
Sujata Banerjee, Pradnya Jadhav* and Sundaram Kartikeyan
Street children comprise a socially-marginalized, vulnerable, under-served group who need a range of social services, education and health care. Though a difficult task, it is essential to estimate the numbers of street children to plan and implement interventional measures. Children leave their homes to live on the street due to multiple reasons and most are primary school dropouts. Girls are less noticeable on the street probably because of their willingness to stay in residential institutions or with relatives or because of their involvement in the sex trade. Street children usually earned money through unskilled work, sex work, petty theft or begging. Children living on the street without family contact had better nutritional status but had higher prevalence of poor personal hygiene, substance abuse, suicide, injuries, infections and parasitic infestations and many preferred self-medication. They experienced physical violence, abuse and monetary extortion by a variety of persons, including their own parents. Different tailor-made interventions are needed for children who are at high-risk of being forced on to the streets; for those who have already entered the street but are still in regular contact with their families and for children who live on streets without contact with their families. The resilience of street children and their need for independence to survive under unforgiving and callous conditions should be recognized. Replacing non-formal education for street children with a flexible formal education curriculum that includes vocational training and “soft skills” may make them employable in mainstream society immediately after they complete their education.
Keywords: Health profile, Homeless children, Socio-demographic profile, Street children.
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