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DATE=1/7/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=STREET CHILDREN IN ETHIOPIA - PART-I NUMBER=5-45188 BYLINE=HILLETEWORK MATHIAS DATELINE=WASHINGTON D.C. CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The issue of street children is one of the fast growing social problems in Ethiopia. The U-N Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates that there are more than 150-thousand street children in the country. Economic problems have made many of them assume responsibilities normally reserved for adults. A large number of them are forced to work on the streets to satisfy their basic needs and support their families. V-O-A's Hilletework Mathias -- recently visited Addis Ababa and talked to some of them. TEXT: Their ages range mostly between eight and 20. They include orphaned, disabled, neglected, and abandoned children all over the country. They can be seen on any day, wearing torn clothes, roaming barefoot, and begging motorists and pedestrians in Addis Ababa. // ACT - SOUNDS OF STREET CHILDREN AS THEY BEG FOR HELP // Some scavenge through garbage for food and material to build shelter. Others spend their days selling things or sleeping on sidewalks beneath plastic sheeting or anything that can provide cover. Some of the girls practice prostitution to support themselves. This makes them vulnerable to pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS. Once pregnant or with a baby to care for, they find that few people will hire them. As a result, many end up in desperate conditions. For some, a constant need for escape from extreme poverty and hunger lead them to unwanted sexual assault at a very young age. Tegest Orga - a street girl in Addis Ababa - says she had a terrible experience when she was 12. /// TEGEST ACT: EST. ACT IN FULL IN AMHARIC THEN FADE UNDER FOR TRANSLATION /// Once when I was a kid, I was working in Merkato. A man came and asked where I live. I told him where I lived. He said his brother also lives in my neighborhood. He said "let us go together, I will show you his house." I said, 'Okay' and we started going. But he took me to a wooded area saying that was the direction to his brother's house. Once we were in the wooded area, he told me to get undressed. He said, "if you scream here police will come." He took out a knife and said he will kill me if I scream. I was so frightened. Then he raped me and left me there. After that, it took me almost six-months to walk normally. I was only 12. /// END OF ACT /// Several factors are blamed for forcing many of these children to the streets. Poverty, family breakdown or instability and peer pressures are considered the main reasons forcing children to the streets. *************(ACT to be inserted). For others, like Bezuayehu Demissie, family disharmony was the main reason that pushed him to the streets at the age of 13. /// BEZAYEHU ACT: EST. ACT IN FULL IN AMHARIC THEN FADE UNDER FOR TRANSLATION /// I left home because of a disagreement with my stepfather. After I left home I went to the bus station where I met street children. After a while I got along with them and started doing all kinds of things they do. When they smoke, I smoke, and when they take drug, I also take drug. We sleep on the streets even in the winter. When I do not have money, I beg or sleep in the streets. Sometimes I scavenge through garbage cans for food. /// END OF ACT /// There is another dimension to the problem of street children in Ethiopia. Their desperation for food and other basic necessities leads them to be involved in illegal activities such as stealing. Elias Zewde - a former street child - was living with his grandfather and his aunt after he lost his father when he was 10. Elias says hunger led him to all kinds of illegal activities. ///ELIAS ACT: EST. ACT IN FULL IN AMHARIC THEN FADE UNDER FOR TRANSLATION /// My aunt did not treat me fairly. She was not giving me food when my grandfather was out of the house. I was denied food while her kids were fed. As a result, I used to get very hungry. My grandfather was a priest. He was also working as a cleaner at Zenebework School, while spending most of his spare time in church. So he did not have time for me and for my younger brother. I had stopped going to school when I was in the second grade. That was when my father died. So when kids in the neighborhood with parents go to school, I was spending most of my time with my vagabond friends in the streets doing all kinds of things; including stealing, gambling, and any thing that brings money. We do this just to survive. You do anything when you get hungry. /// END OF ACT /// The use of alcohol and drugs as a survival strategy leads a few to insanity by the time they are in their early 20's. As a result, they are branded by society at large as vagabonds, nuisances, and criminals. Tense day-to-day interaction between street children and the police is routine. Minas Hiruy is the executive secretary of HOPE - an indigenous non-governmental organization that provides food, education, and counseling to street children in Ethiopia. Mr. Minas says the public lacks awareness about the true nature of the problems of street children. /// MINAS ACT /// Not too long ago, 30-years ago, this country was never dependent on anybody. The kinds of problems we have in the streets were not really problems. They were absorbed in the community, in the extended family. Since recently with drought, war, and so forth the extended family has broken down, the community has been trained not to spare anything to anybody. As a result, this problem has become a sudden problem. And we do not really know how to face it. Sad to say many in the community see it with a negativity, not with a kind of compassionate attitude because the community as a whole is not used to seeing people dependent just on begging. But that is now becoming a reality. /// END OF ACT /// Street kids are also highly exploited. Younger children guarding cars are chased away by older ones, particularly where business thrives, or else they will have to pay a small fee to the older ones. In some cases, the teenagers force the younger kids to work for them for free. Bezuayehu is one of them. /// BEZUAYEHU ACT: EST. ACT IN FULL IN AMHARIC THEN FADE UNDER FOR TRANSLATION /// Older street kids kick me and order me to work and give the money to them. After I do that, they tell me to go and dump trash. If I do no get trash to take out, they kick me. When they want drugs they tell me to go and get drugs. After they take the drugs they get high and again kick me and mistreat me. /// END OF ACT /// For Bezuayehu and thousands of others like him, working on the streets has become a vital necessity in their young lives. What matters to them is not tomorrow, but their day-to-day survival - something to eat, something warm to wear, and somewhere to sleep. There is no space or time for childhood. NEB/HM/ENE/RAE 07-Jan-2000 08:51 AM EDT (07-Jan-2000 1351 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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