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the current reality of street children: a geographical perspective

As poverty in the Third World becomes increasingly urban-based, the number of potential street children will increase dramatically. About one-third of the population of the developing world now lives in urban areas. Within 20 years, more than half will live in cities, the majority in low-income, slum neighborhoods, adding to the 600 million people worldwide who currently live in urban slums.

Street children in Ethiopia have become a countrywide epidemic, with over 100,000 children living and/or working on the streets of Ethiopia's cities. Another 500,000 rural are not in school and living in extreme poverty, creating the potential for thousands more children to head to the cities and onto the streets.

The number of street children in Harare, Zimbabwe, soared in the 1990s, a result of increasing unemployment, economic stagnation and political turmoil; a devastating famine, which sent tens of thousands of poor, rural families to the city; and the AIDS epidemic, which orphaned thousands of children, sending many to the streets.

Child prostitution has become a serious problem in Sri Lanka. All poor children -- not just those on the streets -- are vulnerable targets for the country's pedophile tourism industry, which attracts thousands of foreigners each year who come to have sex with children. The children also end up working in pornography, especially movies, for distribution abroad, including the United States.

There are over a million street children in the Philippines. They survive by prostitution, scavenging, stealing, selling small items and begging. In Manila alone it is estimated that there are 75,000 children living on the streets.

Thousands of children live on the streets of Bucharest, Romania. They sleep in train stations, sewer tunnels and abandoned buildings. Many escaped from horrific state-run orphanages after the 1989 revolution.

The serious economic problems of Russia are the key reason so many children and youth are on the streets.. It is estimated that there are 10,000-12,000 children on the streets of Moscow and 5,000-10,000 in St. Petersburg.

Most of the children in Sophia, Bulgaria, are of Gypsy origin. Because of discrimination against Gypsies, these children have a difficult time getting assistance, and are subjected to violence from right-wing extremists as well as the police.

The number of street children in Bogota, Columbia, has been estimated between 5,000 and 10,000. Many boys who start on the streets as beggars grow up to become muggers and petty thieves, while little girls are befriended by pimps who feed and clothe them, and then force them into prostitution.