The general characterization of homeless or street child is a child who lives on the street, in particular one that is not taken care of by a parent or other adults and who sleeps on the street because he or she does not have a home. Homelessness, among children, is one of the major problems in Dhaka city, capital of Bangladesh, like others cities of the world. Dhaka is now experiencing an increase in the number and proportion of homeless children living on the streets and in public places due to the increasing pressures of internal migration and rapid urbanization. They are visible by day and invisible by night. During the day they scramble for living with the rest of us. They beg, they hustle, they peddle, they scrounge and they grunge. Then the sundown sets them apart. We return home and they return to nature. It is impossible to calculate exactly how many homeless children there are in total but Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies said that an estimated 3,80,000 homeless children live in Bangladesh and 55 per cent of them are in Dhaka city alone.
These floating kids of our country don't have proper accommodations, no bedroom, no bed, no kitchen and no washroom. They have no holding number, postal code, telephone number, TIN or email address. They live in suspended animation, non-entities between statistical figures and human existence. At night they sleep under the open sky on sidewalks, park benches, railway stations, launch terminals, bus depots, steps of shops and houses and mid-islands on the roads.
Factors leading to their helpless situation include urbanization and overcrowding, family breakdown, poverty, natural and man-made disasters.
However, they are often blamed for crime and other antisocial activities that occur in cities, including begging and drug abuse. Because of the lack of regular employment and being trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, deprivation and social ostracism, with barely sufficient income to keep them above starvation level, some turn to crime.
One of the major problems of street children is insecure life; chances of sexual exploitation are high among these children for lack of night shelters, family support and their inability to protect themselves. In addition, they are subjected to many other forms of violence, including physical, harassment by law enforcing agencies; inadequate or almost no access to educational institutions and healthcare facilities; and lack of decent employment opportunity. Therefore, homeless children constitute one of the most vulnerable and marginal groups in the country.
Again homeless children consistently exhibit more health problems than housed poor children. Environmental factors contribute to homeless children’s poor health and they are at high risk for infectious disease. Homeless children are at greater risk for asthma and lead poisoning, often with more severe symptoms than housed children. Poor nutrition also contributes to homeless children’s poor health, causing increased rates of stunted growth and anemia. Despite these widespread health problems, homeless children generally lack access to consistent health care, and this lack of care can increase severity of illness.
In a nutshell, it is needless to mention that the homeless children of our country are leading a miserable life. These underprivileged children are not exposed in our society although they are the significant part of the society and without any doubt it can be said that the development initiatives of the government will not be successful if this section is excluded from the development projects. Meanwhile as the citizens of Bangladesh the homeless children have all the right to get facilities from government to fulfill their basic needs. So, government should take this point into consideration and consequently take necessary steps to ensure a safe life for the homeless children. Apart from these, non-government initiatives are also indispensable to bring an end to this problem.
(The writer is an Assistant Professor, Department of General Education, Northern University Bangladesh.)