Islamabad, April 12, 2022 – There are more than 1.5 million street children in Pakistan and the number is rapidly increasing. Many children have made the streets their home, or spend most of their time outside their homes on the streets. Pakistan has the second-highest number of Out of School Children (OOSC) in the world, at about 22.8 million. Street-connected children are part of this number, as they are often forced to choose between going to work or to school.
Street children in Pakistan lead lives of suffering and insecurity and are often victims of physical, social, psychological, and moral hazards. The phenomenon of street children is also due to the breakdown of traditional family and community structures that leave children unprotected. These children are exposed to deprivation and danger on the streets, lacking food, clean water, and adequate medical care on the streets. Some of these children get involved in drugs, street crime and become a danger to others and are involved in street and organized crimes. Street children become easy targets for exploitation and violence by those around them.
On the International Day for Street Children, Ms. Afshan Tehseen, Chairperson of the National Commission on the Rights of Child (NCRC), called for joint national efforts to ensure that street and homeless children are not overlooked and ignored in national priorities.
The Chairperson stated, “Childhood is the most important phase of human life. It is during this stage that the foundations are laid for a healthy and successful adult life. The formative lived experiences of street children can make or break their personalities, ultimately affecting the society as a whole. It is time to take action so that street children are no longer invisible — we must make efforts to provide them inclusive, quality education for all, health care, and nutrition programmes.”
The Commission recommends that the government develop models and strategies for prevention, response and rehabilitation to keep children from ending up on the streets. There is a need to develop a multi-sectoral, holistic national strategy for street children that addresses education and protection across Pakistan. Improving the situation of street children in Pakistan is a collective responsibility that requires a coordinated response from government agencies and civil society organizations.
The Commission recognises that street children are a major social problem in Pakistan. The Commission, in collaboration with Cities for Children, has undertaken a study to improve understanding of the phenomenon of street children in Pakistan. The study provides policy makers and civil society with an overview of the situation of street children in Pakistan and makes recommendations to facilitate informed decisions for initiating system-wide changes to protect them. This study will be launched in Islamabad on April 20, 2022.