Whether runaways, school dropouts, or abandoned, the number of children who live in the world's streets reaches into the tens of millions. ``Their number seems to rise as countries become more and more urbanized, and big cities like Calcutta, Nairobi, Marseilles, New York, and Bogota are monuments to their plight,'' according to a United Nations report just released.
Peter Tacon, of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said youngsters of up to 18 years living a street life could be roughly estimated at 90 million in Third World nations, with another 10 million in industrial countries.
The problem seems greatest in South America. UNICEF quoted a report from Brazil that put the number of street children there as high as 30 million.
UNICEF included children working on the streets but who still had family ties as well as those who were living entirely cut off from home.
In groups of three, five or 10, they often form closely knit families, feeling closer to street siblings than to their own brothers and sisters in their former homes, said Mr. Tacon.
A large number are on the street to work and earn a little money to help support their families.
But many are left to survive on their own with no protection after fleeing their homes or being abandoned by adults no longer able or willing to support them.
UNICEF helps set up a number of programs, particularly in Brazil, in which street educators try to provide children with schooling and part-time work.
Recession and migration to cities are the main reasons why South America has such a high number of street children, according to Tacon.