Pakistan's street children

An estimated 1.5 million children living on streets are vulnerable to sexual abuse and drugs on daily basis.

| | Poverty & Development, Asia, Pakistan

The number of children found living, working and begging on Pakistan's streets has been growing despite efforts to provide basic education and aid.

An estimated 1.5 million children live on the streets of Pakistan, according to various numbers from government surveys and private organisations.

Rana Asif, who launched the NGO, Initiator, a decade ago to tackle this problem, said that inflation and refugee migration were the main contributing factors.

According to Initiator’s recent survey, 66 percent of street children are runaways who were forced to leave their homes after experiencing violence in household, workplace and educational institutions.

But the runaway children appear to be more vulnerable to abuse than before. The issue was highlighted in December 1999, when serial killer Javed Iqbal sent a letter to a newspaper confessing to the murders of 100 street children in the city of Lahore.

Iqbal committed suicide in prison before he was due to be hanged in front of the parents of the children he had murdered and sexually abused.

There are people such as Asif who want to help, but many others gain financially by keeping the children on the streets.

Asif told Al Jazeera that in cities such as Karachi, mafia exploit the street children by forcing them into begging and stealing.

"We provide some education, training and Eid gifts for these street children but as the mafia sees them stepping away from begging and stealing, the children are swiftly transported to other parts of the country. Some are even smuggled abroad, mostly to Iran," Asif said.

Follow Faras Ghani on Twitter: @farasG

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