Thousands of street children are being addicted to various drugs due to their availability in the capital, leading to an increase in street crimes.
Experts said many street children between seven and sixteen take narcotic drugs such as yaba, phensidyl, heroin and cannabis, causing social concerns.
To get money for buying the drugs, they get involved in mugging and other crimes. They also take the path of begging, they added.
But the exact number of drug addicts is still unknown as there is no comprehensive statistics for the social problem.
Director of Bangladesh Children Rights Forum Abdus Shahid Mahmood told the daily sun, “Many street children are employed by drug dealers to take narcotics to customers.”
“The children are not usually searched by law enforcers. They are given Tk 50-100 a day [for the drug selling],” he added.
Mahmood said, “Street children are engaged in various anti-social activities to get money for purchasing drugs. After growing up, they will engage in committing big crimes.
According to a survey carried out by ICDDR,B and Most at-Risk Adolescents (MARA) in 2016, there are 4.45 lakh street children in Bangladesh – 3 lakh in Dhaka alone. Most of them are addicted to drugs.
Experts said drug addiction is increasing among street children who live without family, love and care.
The government should launch a comprehensive campaign involving public and private organisations, schools, universities and civil society to fight the menace, they suggest.
According to the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC), children aged between 8 and 10 years take cannabis, cigarettes and glue sniffing while children aged between 12 and 18 years take phensidyl and heroin.
Sumon, 14, who came to Dhaka from Rajshahi two years ago, said, A street boy first offered me Dandi.” “After sniffing, I became addicted to it as it is a different type of feeling,” he added.
Like Sumon, a large number of street children are getting addicted to ‘Dandi’.
While visiting parks in the capital, the daily sun correspondent found that many children are openly taking drugs.
Syed Towfique Uddin Ahmed, DIG and Director (Operations and Intelligence) of the DNC, told the daily sun: “Actually there is no statistics of DNC that how many street children are addicted to drugs. But the number is rising every day.”
“We do some work with drug-addicted children. Sometimes, we conducted drives in a certain area and bring 10 to 15 addicted children to our centre,” he added.
“We give them treatment for one month and later handed them under the custody of local chairman or commissioner,” he added.
He said: “Recently, we have treated around 17 addicted children.”
The DNC has a plan to hold a dialogue with the Department of Social Welfare over the drug abuse by street children, he added.
According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) Child Labour Survey (CLS) 2013, there are around 39.65 million children in the country aged between 5 and 17 years. Among them, around 1.3 million children are engaged in hazardous jobs, 70 percent are involved in criminal activities due to poverty.