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Human Trafficking

Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

In the first decade of the 21st Century                                                   

Arab Republic of Egypt

Cairo has aggressively pursued economic reforms to encourage inflows of foreign investment and facilitate GDP growth.

Despite these achievements, the government has failed to raise living standards for the average Egyptian, and has had to continue providing subsidies for basic necessities.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Egypt

CAUTION:  The following links and accompanying text have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Egypt.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspect(s) of street life are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring how children got there, how they survive, and how some manage to leave the street.  Perhaps your paper could focus on how some street children abuse the public and how they are abused by the public … and how they abuse each other.  Would you like to write about market children? homeless children?  Sexual and labor exploitation? begging? violence? addiction? hunger? neglect? etc.  There is a lot to the subject of Street Children.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


A new approach to Egypt’s street children

United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF, Cairo Egypt, 29 December 2005

[accessed 9 May 2011]

Among the swirling crowds of Cairo, one hardly notices the small figures of children who call the streets their home. Adel is one of them. He left home at nine to escape a life of misery and violence.

But the life he found on the streets was no better, Adel admits. Now after four years of a rootless, vulnerable existence, he longs to return home. “When I see other children on their way to school, I wish I could be like them. Here on the streets, I have no future,” Adel adds with a helpless shrug.

Mass Arrests of Street Children in Egypt with Beatings & Sexual Abuse Common

Human Rights Watch, 02/19/03

[accessed 9 May 2011]

The Egyptian government conducts mass arrest campaigns of children whose "crime" is that they are in need of protection, Human Rights Watch said in a new report released today. Children in police custody face beatings, sexual abuse and extortion by police and adult criminal suspects, and police routinely deny them access to food, bedding and medical care.

Young girls learn ABC of Cairo street life

Reuters, Dec 12, 2007

[accessed 9 May 2011]

Nora, a mother at just 14, jingled keys above her infant daughter's head, drawing smiles from the baby she conceived while living on the streets of Cairo.  She was one of hundreds of thousands of children who the United Nations says may be living on Egypt's streets, including a growing number of girls arriving as young as four or five years old fleeing poverty, abuse or broken homes.  While baby Shaimaa played with slippers at Nora's feet, the young mother described how she traded beatings by her brothers at the age of six or seven for a life of early forced sexuality on streets where she became pregnant soon after puberty.


*** ARCHIVES ***

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 3 February 2011]

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Urban areas are also host to large numbers of street children who have left their homes in the countryside to find work, and often to flee hostile conditions at home.  Street children work shining shoes, collecting rubbish, begging, cleaning and directing cars into parking spaces, and selling food and trinkets.  Street children are particularly vulnerable to becoming involved in illicit activities, including stealing, smuggling, pornography, and prostitution.  In particular, the commercial sexual exploitation of children is greatly under-acknowledged given that Egyptian cities (Alexandria and Cairo in particular) are reported destinations for sex tourism.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 8 February 2020]

CHILDREN - The government remained committed to the protection of children's welfare; in practice, the government made some progress in eliminating FGM and in affording rights to children with foreign fathers. However, the government made little progress in addressing the plight of street children, which remained a significant problem.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 26 January 2001

[accessed 27 February 2011]

[47] In light of its previous concluding observations and taking note of significant efforts by the State party to improve education coverage, enrolment and retention levels and the inclusion of the Convention in the school curricula, the Committee remains concerned at the poor quality of education in general. The Committee is further concerned at the lack of success of literacy programs for school dropouts.

[49] In light of its previous concluding observations, and taking note of efforts by the State party to address child labor, the Committee remains concerned about this problem. Its main concerns are: (a) There are insufficient comprehensive and accurate data available on children working in Egypt; …

Egypt’s generation homeless: Aid workers struggle to help street kids

Mona Salem, AFP, Cairo, May 30, 2017

[accessed 22 August 2017]

“The law doesn’t allow shelters to receive children unless they have a birth certificate,” said team leader Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed.   “Most of them are second- and third-generation street children and don’t have any official papers, and usually their fathers refuse to acknowledge paternity,” he said.   According to the most recent ministry figures from a 2014 survey, Egypt has about 16,000 street children, said Hazem el-Mallah, spokesman for the “Children Without Shelter” program.

“The main factors pushing the children out of their homes are domestic violence… incest and poverty,” said Maes.   “In general, it affects households experiencing unemployment, drug use, low or no education”, he said.

A child of Cairo's streets, with a child of her own

Jeffrey Fleishman, The Los Angeles Times, February 17, 2009

[accessed 10 May 2011]


She has a baby in her arms and another growing inside. She says she knows about love, says she found it on the streets, where boys fight with razors and a one-armed glue-huffer whispers the pretty things a girl yearns to hear before she curls and sleeps in the abandoned buildings that clutter Cairo's heart.

"I love him," says Amira, holding Randa, the 18-month-old daughter she had with Ahmed. "I had an affair with him four years ago. I love him because he protected me. When anybody bothered me, he'd fight for me, and when it got cold he took me into his house. I still love him. I saw him last Friday."

Egypt child labour a sombre reality

Agence France-Presse AFP, Cairo, Jun 11, 2008

[accessed 11 January 2015]

While the situation is difficult for the children who work while living at home, it is dire for those living on city streets who are vulnerable to protection rackets, prostitution and AIDS.  "Their situation is worse. Reintegrating the children living at home into school is relatively easy. Those on the street are so traumatised that psychological help is the priority," says Nevine Osman, coordinator of the state-run National Council for Motherhood and Childhood.  Authorities, protective of the country's reputation for reform and modernity, are eager to keep the problem of street children as quiet as possible, with few officials willing to speak on the subject.  According to UNICEF, a few encouraging signs are emerging such as NGOs like the Hope Village Society, which takes in street children and teaches them to mentor others in tougher circumstances.

In Egypt, child workers a growing problem as food prices rise

The Jerusalem Post, 04/03/2008

[accessed 3 February 2011]

In large cities like Cairo, it is common to see children as young as age 5 dodging cars to try sell gum, flowers, tissue paper or trinkets to cars waiting at red lights. Many of those working children, in contrast with the factory child workers, have no families or have run away and live on the streets.  An official at the National Center for Criminal and Social Research said the country has fewer than 30 public shelters for street children or other poor children and about 160 private shelters. Police often arrest those trying to sell on the streets, if they are considered vulnerable to delinquencym and put them in shelters, where they often again run away The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

In Cairo, hordes of street kids, but no longer ignored

Jill Carroll, The Christian Science Monitor, January 31, 2008

[accessed 9 May 2011]

Kareem and Mustapha were little more than toddlers when their parents sent them onto Cairo's streets to sell mints and tissues.  They had begun on the path trod by Cairo's growing thousands of street kids – sleeping on streets, joining gangs for protection, underfed and covered with the filth of a city packed with 18 million people.

Egypt fights ignorance on HIV/Aids

Alasdair Soussi, BBC News, Cairo, 1 December 2007

[accessed 9 May 2011]

TARGETING THE YOUNG - Meanwhile, HIV/Aids peer education programmes have been introduced by a range of NGOs dealing with young people.  Particular attention is given to those most at risk, such as Egypt's estimated one million street children.  At a reception centre run by the Cairo-based Hope Village Society, HIV and the risks associated with the disease are a regular topic of discussion with groups of street children.  "HIV is a very dangerous disease, so because of the training, I'm more aware of risks, and it's influenced my behaviour," says 15-year old Emad. "I look after myself better now when I'm on the streets than I ever did before."

Zizou kinder and gentler

Reem Leila, Al-Ahram Weekly, Issue No. 870, 8-14 November 2007

[accessed 9 May 2011]

[accessed 28 November 2016]

It is hard to tell how many children are living on the streets of Egypt, but one thing is clear; the numbers are huge and certainly growing. With the difficulty of quantifying the phenomenon, studies estimate that there are anywhere between 200,000 and two million homeless children in the country, most of them in Cairo and Alexandria governorates. The children lead an unhealthy and often dangerous life that leaves them deprived of their basic needs for protection, guidance, and supervision and exposes them to various forms of exploitation and abuse.

Zidane launches homeless children project in Cairo

Agence France-Presse AFP, Cairo, Nov 1, 2007

[accessed 9 May 2011]

[accessed 28 November 2016]

Besides setting up a home to take in some of Cairo's thousands of streetchildren, the programme will also look at the possibility of job-creating projects for their families.

Cairo has between 200,000 and one million street children, according to the UN's children agency UNICEF.

On this trip to Egypt, the beggars were the ones who gave

Joel Carillet, The Christian Science Monitor, August 3, 2007

[accessed 9 May 2011]

Being a veteran traveler as well as having once lived in Egypt for a year, I was no stranger to children begging or people asking me for help. But seldom had I been so moved by the sincerity of the plea.  In my broken Arabic I asked when they had last eaten – about 16 hours ago, they said – and then I turned to look through the window beside us. For the boys, to look through this window was to gaze upon a world inaccessible to them; for me, it was to see familiar ground.

Colouring pain - Amira El-Noshokaty delves into a spontaneous yet harrowing world of imagination, and reality

Amira El-Noshokaty, Al-Ahram Weekly, 19-25 July 2007 -- Issue No. 854

[accessed 10 May 2011]

[accessed 17 January 2017]

"I don't dream of anything in particular. I just wish someone could take me off the street because I'm so fed up with it." Thus Hoda, 20, a street artist who paints whatever gives her "a feeling". She is one of many contributors to On the Street, an art book composed entirely of the work of street children.

Nisrine, 13, speaks of the public garden where she lived as her home -- a state of affairs constantly undermined by undercover policemen who would take her in. "at night, when I am alone, I sit and think what if I get sick? I do not know what I am doing on the street, I don't know."

According to a UNICEF study on street children in Greater Cairo in 2007, out of 191 street boys and girls, 64 per cent of the boys and 39.3 per cent of the girls were abused at home by their fathers; 78.9 per cent of the boys have sex with people of the same sex; 61.7 per cent of boys and 58.6 per cent of girls sniff glue. Out of a total of 167 children, 48.6 per cent of the girls work as prostitutes.

Two get death for killing street kids

Reuters, Cairo, 24 May, 2007

[accessed 17 January 2017]

Two leaders of an Egyptian children’s gang were sentenced to death yesterday for raping and killing at least three, and possibly up to 26, street children in Cairo and northern Egypt, a judicial source said.  Five other gang members were given prison terms.

British Airways staff visit street children centres in Cairo

United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF, Cairo, 10 May 2007

[accessed 10 May 2011]

Five British Airways Cabin Crew had the opportunity to visit centres that have been set up to help street children in the city. The number of street children is a big issue in Egypt and is on the rise. Estimates on the number of street children range from 200,000 to one million, a quarter of the street child population is believed to be less than 12 years old.

Streets apart

Sara Carr, Al-Ahram Weekly, 5-11 April 2007 -- Issue No. 839

[accessed 10 May 2011]

[accessed 28 November 2016]

Accompanying "On the Street" is a photographic exhibit by Hesham Labib. "Cut Short", a collection of portraits of five street children, is inspired by Tahani Rached's 2006 documentary film El-Banat Dol (Those Girls), which presented a harrowing glimpse into the world of Cairo's street children. Despite their vulnerability and the misery of their circumstances, Rached's homeless girls demonstrate a resilience that defies pity; they are proud, and it is a trait that defines Labib's photographs: the cinematic quality of these images, their pared down simplicity and above all their subjects combine to make something beautiful. Even the infuriating and presumably deliberate absence of any kind of background information about the photographs and their subjects only contributes to their enigma.

Vilified for voicing dissent

Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz, 04.March .07

[accessed 10 May 2011]

Last month, al-Sadawi published another article in Al Hayat, blaming male society for the phenomenon of over two million street children in Egypt. She relates that a poor woman whose husband abandoned her and their two daughters, arrived at her Cairo clinic. Without any real income, the woman had to leave her home in the middle class Al-Maadi neighborhood and move to the impoverished Shubra area.

When she tried to transfer her daughters to a school in the Shubra neighborhood, she was told that she had to obtain her husband's approval to do so. She was unable to locate the deadbeat husband and her connections to the education minister were useless. In the end, she turned to her mother-in-law, who managed to persuade her son to submit the paperwork and permits needed to transfer the girls. However the husband set one condition: that his wife waive her monthly alimony payments in court.

Solidarity unlimited

Amira El-Noshokaty, Al-Ahram Weekly, 1-7 March 2007 -- Issue No. 834

[accessed 10 May 2011]

[accessed 28 November 2016]

NGOs marked a national day for street children, but, asks Amira El-Noshokaty, what about the rest of the year?

UNICEF Executive Director commends Egypt’s progress towards Millennium Development Goals

United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF, Cairo/Geneva/New York, 20 February 2007

[accessed 10 May 2011]

The need to provide protection to more vulnerable children – including those living on the streets and girls subjected to female genital cutting -- were high on the agenda of the UNICEF Executive Director’s meetings with senior government officials.

Excluded and invisible

Amira El-Noshokaty, Al-Ahram Weekly, 21-27 December 2006 -- Issue No. 825

[accessed 10 May 2011]

[accessed 28 November 2016]

WHY, ASKS AMIRA EL-NOSHOKATY, ARE NUMEROUS EGYPTIAN CHILDREN LIVING ON THE STREETS? - According to Fadia Abu Shehba, professor at the National Centre for Social and Criminal Research, "the factors are numerous, including fragile families, broken homes and the absence of one of the two pillars of the family. Lack of compatibility within homes gives way to domestic violence, forcing children to run away. And this is not to mention the complete lack of any form of parental guidance. Besides, crammed into little apartments with as little as one room for 10 people, children often see their parents having sex and want to copy them, initially with siblings, hence rape and harassment. Children choose the street, where there is enough room, only to be exploited by street gangs, whether sexually, in the drug trade or, more recently, trading internationally in their body parts."

Killing Kids

Manal el-Jesr, Egypt Today, January 9, 2007

[accessed 17 January 2017]

They admitted that they had lured street children onto the tops of trains en route from Cairo to Alexandria, where they then raped them and tossed the naked bodies onto the opposite tracks. Other victims were drowned in the Nile or dumped in sewers; others still were buried alive.

Forgotten children

Salama A Salama, Al-Ahram Weekly, 14-20 December 2006 -- Issue No. 824

[accessed 10 May 2011]

[accessed 17 January 2017]

As the tragic circumstances of the rape and killing of street children unfolded, one would have expected the government to form a committee to look into the phenomenon and find appropriate solutions.

The recent atrocity, attributed to a gang led by someone called El-Turbini, involved up to 30 victims. This alone tells us that the phenomenon is as widespread as it is alarming. We have a Ministry for Social Welfare that is supposedly in charge of children's homes around the country. We have several NGOs that receive no financial help from the ministry and rely on funding from private citizens and foreign aid organisations. And yet the government has been unable to find real solutions to the problem of homeless children. The latter are falling prey to gangs of racketeers and drug dealers who have no qualms or conscience. The phenomenon resonates with the history of some Latin American countries where belts of poverty around major cities produce child gangs as well as gangs that kill children.

Of mice and men

Pierre Loza, Al-Ahram Weekly, 14-20 December 2006 -- Issue No. 824

[accessed 10 May 2011]

[accessed 28 November 2016]

The two-week saga surrounding the capture of an 11-member gang that is believed to have committed a series of rapes and murders in a number of governorates, including Cairo, Alexandria, Al-Beheira and Qalioubya, has prompted concern about the perennial problem of street children. According to interrogations, 26-year-old Ramadan Abdel-Rahman, also known as El-Torbini (meaning express train), is the gang leader who ordered the murders of numerous street children.

Although Abdel-Rahman and his accomplices allegedly led investigators to more than 10 bodies in scattered parts of the country, they also took them to Marsa Matruh where no bodies were found. But after being remanded in custody for an additional 10 days, gang members are said to have confessed to killing more than 30 street children.

Street children worst hit by violence, experts say

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Cairo, 19 November 2006

[accessed 10 March 2015]

"We get chased and hit all the time by all kinds of people, from police to taxi drivers to passers-by," said 12-year-old Mohammed, who spends most of his time at the gates of Cairo University but sleeps in a different area most nights.

Abla El-Badri, who heads the government-run National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) committee for street children, said Egypt's half a million street children were always vulnerable to physical attacks.

"If boys find life on the streets hard, then girls, who might face more frequent sexual attacks and rape, live in near-constant fear," El-Badri said.

A Firm Foundation

Business Today, August 11, 2006 — Source:

[accessed 10 May 2011]

Iskandar put two and two together, and the result is a program in which garbage collectors recycle the empty containers instead of reselling them in return for educational funding from the companies looking to protect their brands. Big business is happy, plastic goes eco and the garbage collectors get a chance at educational mobility. It’s a win-win situation.

Egypt street mothers find refuge

Alasdair Soussi, BBC News, Cairo, 1 June 2006

[accessed 10 May 2011]

Many Egyptians regard street children as a nuisance, or at worst as petty criminals fully meriting the harsh treatment to which they are often subjected.

Their health problems are often severe, ranging from cholera to tuberculosis and anaemia.

Studies show they are exposed to a variety of toxic substances, both in their food and in the environment around them.

They are also at risk of various kinds of abuse.

In one survey, 86% of street children questioned identified violence as a major problem in their life, while 50% stated that they had been exposed to sexual molestation.

Mass arrests of street children

Human Rights Watch, Cairo, February 19, 2003

[accessed 10 May 2011]

[scroll down]



SEXUAL ABUSE AND VIOLENCE - The guard here says, 'You are a woman [sexually].' He keeps saying that to me. I keep saying, 'No, I'm a girl [i.e. a virgin].' Yesterday, he said, 'If you are really a girl, take your clothes off so we can examine you.  -Warda N., sixteen

The guards at the [Sahel police] station curse us with curses about our mothers and so sometimes they hit us.  -Amal A., sixteen

Every little bit [the guards at al Azbekiya] hit us. They hit us with belts. When they come to wake us, they wake us up with belts. If someone says anything, they hit all of us -Marwan `I., thirteen

They ask you where you are from. Then the prosecutor says 'You stole something.' I say, 'I didn't steal anything.' Then he says, 'O.K. Begging.' - Khaled M., eleven

Police Criticized On Child Arrests

Steven Lee Myers, The New York Times, February 21, 2003

[accessed 10 May 2011]

Street children and truants were being arrested on the basis that they were ''vulnerable to delinquency,'' even if they had committed no crime.

Violence Against Girls in Conflict with the Law

Human Rights Watch, 20 February 2007

[accessed 10 May 2011]

VIOLENCE IN DETENTION FACILITIES - “He [the officer] curses me and makes me stand while he hits me with a stick. When I fall to the ground he makes me stand again. He hits me all over my body—from my head to my feet.” — Amal A., sixteen, detained in Cairo, Egypt

Information About Street Children - Egypt [DOC]

This report is taken from “A Civil Society Forum for North Africa and the Middle East on Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Street Children”, 3-6 March 2004, Cairo, Egypt

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 22 September 2011]

A quarter of the street child population is believed to be less than 12 years old, with two-thirds between 13 and 16 years old and only 10% over 17.  The key factors pushing children onto the streets in Egypt are family breakup (divorce, separation, remarriage, and death), large family size, child abuse and neglect, low income and educational levels, unplanned rural-urban migration and children’s difficulties in coping with the formal school system, increasing the rate of drop-out.

Child Protection - Egypt's Street Children: Issues And Impact

United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 10 May 2011]

These children lead an unhealthy and often dangerous life that leaves them deprived of their basic needs for protection, guidance, and supervision and exposes them to different forms of exploitation and abuse. For many, survival on the street means begging and sexual exploitation by adults.

Update December 2001 – United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention [PDF]

UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention UNODCCP, December 2001

[accessed 10 May 2011]

[page 12] 

HOPE FOR STREET CHILDREN IN EGYPT - With some 16 million inhabitants Cairo is the biggest city in Africa and the Middle East. It is also home to a rapidly growing street children population of around 150,000. Many of these unfortunate children have to deal with broken families, poverty, abuse and violence. Sadly, drugs such as cannabis herb, tablets, and solvents, are all too often used to cope with the pain, violence, and hunger of the streets.

Drug Demand Reduction among Street Children in Egypt

UN Office on Drugs and Crime UNODC

[accessed 10 May 2011]

The project builds up comprehensive drug abuse prevention and treatment services for street children in Cairo and Alexandria at selected governmental and non-governmental institutions. It also provides assistance for the development of a program of action on prevention and treatment, the development of institution and reception center facilities, including vocational training units, and trains the staff at these institutions. A children at-risk monitoring system is also being developed and police detention facilities for street children are being upgraded, with special training for police officers.

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