04 Jan Street Children: A Global Epidemic

It is clear that street children in Brazil are at a mortal risk, and every member of Hope Unlimited is aware of the emergency nature of this issue and is working towards changing it. However, the issue is not exclusive to Brazil. When analyzing data from other nations around the world, one starts to realize that the issue of children living on the streets transcends any one simple border or culture, and instead exists globally, particularly in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. A conservative estimate is that “The global economic collapse has pushed the number of social and biological orphans to (conservatively) 153 million.” (Nowell, Dirty Faith) In one of my previous posts, I discussed the difference between social and biological orphans. You may recall that biological orphans do not have parents, while social orphans have parents who are unfortunately not capable of raising them (due to factors such as drug abuse or incarceration). Both biological and social orphans are among the millions of children forced to make a home on the streets.

British psychologist Graham Pluck studied children living on the streets in Latin America. In his 2015 article The ‘Street Children’ of Latin America, he explained that the term “niños de la calle” actually includes different types of children, from gang members to those who are working hard to support themselves and their families. However, when looking at these different types of children, it is clear that, as a group, they are all subjected to many severe challenges. For example, physical violence, sexual abuse, and police brutality are sadly all common occurrences for these children. Also, lack of treatment for curable diseases is prevalent and leads to poor health or even death. Substance abuse is also alarmingly common. Dr. Pluck cites a study by Huang showing that of a group of street children in La Paz, Bolivia, “58 percent reported alcohol use, 40 percent reported glue sniffing and 88 percent reported the abuse of paint thinner.” 

boys on the street

The reality is that the issue of children living on the streets has a global reach and magnitude. The problems faced by these children on a daily basis are truly heartbreaking. Many circumstances feel unescapable, and many children are trapped by cycles of poverty, addiction, and abuse. It is once we begin to learn more about these problems that we can begin to understand just how compelling Hope Unlimited’s mission of helping the street children in Brazil truly is.

Matthew Barber

guest contributor