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Human Trafficking

Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

In the first decade of the 21st Century                                                                                                                      

Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Ethiopia's poverty-stricken economy is based on agriculture, accounting for almost half of GDP, 60% of exports, and 80% of total employment. The agricultural sector suffers from frequent drought and poor cultivation practices.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: Ethiopia

CAUTION:  The following links and accompanying text have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Ethiopia.  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.


Steady increase in street children orphaned by AIDS

Indrias Getachew, BAHR DAR, Amhara Region, Ethiopia, 20 January 2006

[accessed 12 May 2011]

 “The street has been my home since I can remember. It’s been more than one year since I moved here (Bahr Dar) and all this time, I have not seen one good thing about living on the street. Everything is horrible,” says 14-year-old Mandefro Kassa, who grew up as an orphan on the streets of Woreta, a provincial town in Ethiopia.


*** ARCHIVES ***

Ethiopia moves children from streets to shelters to slow coronavirus

Emeline Wuilbercq, Thomson Reuters Foundation, ADDIS ABABA, 12 June 2020

[accessed 8 February 2023]

Begging to survive on the streets had become increasingly tough for Olana, one of an estimated 10,000 homeless children in Ethiopia's capital, since the arrival of the new coronavirus.

"As soon as the first case was registered, we were worried because people started to avoid us," the 17-year-old said.

Authorities in Addis started rounding up street children in March to prevent them from contracting and spreading the virus - so far more than 4,100 have been placed in shelters - and the drive is being ramped up as coronavirus cases rise nationwide.

Street children who are taken to shelters by the authorities or charities receive food, clothes, healthcare and counseling. They tend to stay for between three and six months before being reunited with their relatives or returned to their communities.

"(Many) have to recover from drug (addiction) and psychosocial problems," said Nigat Kebede, a director at the Elshadai Relief and Development Association that runs seven shelters for vulnerable people, including the one in Hawassa.

In the long term, the government plans to create more job opportunities for children back home, Mulugeta said, so they do not return to the streets in Addis where they are prey to abuse.

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 4 February 2011]

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - In urban areas, children work predominantly in the informal sector in activities such as street peddling, messenger service, shoe shining, portering, assisting taxi drivers...

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 estimated the number of street children totaled 150 to 200 thousand, with approximately 50 to 60 thousand street children in Addis Ababa. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimated there were 600 thousand street children in the country and more than 100 thousand in the capital. UNICEF believed the problem was exacerbated because of families' inability to support children due to parental illness and decreased household income. These children begged, sometimes as part of a gang, or worked in the informal sector (see section 6.d.). Government and privately run orphanages were unable to handle the number of street children, and older children often abused younger ones. Due to severe resource constraints, hospitals and orphanages often overlooked or neglected abandoned infants. "Handlers" sometimes maimed or blinded children to raise their earnings from begging.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)[DOC]

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1 November 2006$FILE/G0645009.doc

[accessed 4 February 2011]

[69] The Committee is deeply concerned at the increasing number of street children, especially in major urban centres, who are also victims of drug abuse, sexual exploitation, harassment and victimization by members of the police force.  Furthermore, the Committee is concerned at the stigmatization of street children and negative attitudes in society towards them based upon their social condition.

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

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

[accessed 4 February 2011]

[74] The Committee is concerned at the large numbers of children living or working on the streets of the main cities in the State party, and at their lack of access to education, health care, essential nutrition and housing. The Committee is also concerned at the numbers of children involved in child labor.

Sticking its red nose in where it matters

Angela Robson, The Times, March 11, 2009

[accessed 12 May 2011]

[accessed 17 January 2017]

Fourteen-year-old Tegan has been attending the school for the past year. Every night he sleeps under a stairwell in the city centre, cuddling up with a group of 20 other boys to keep warm. He came to Awasa when his mother died and his father remarried. He gets up early to beg, rarely eats breakfast before school and hides his class books under a pavement slab so that they won't be stolen.

Unlike the other children in the school, he looks clean and washed, and his uniform is immaculate. “That's because I wash it once a week in the river,” he says with pride. “I have to keep clean as I can't afford to miss school.” Getachew Zewdie says that Tegan is a highly intelligent child who will flourish, providing he keeps attending classes.

“He has huge challenges as a street child, but is a remarkable boy who seems to be able to rise above his social situation. Many of the other children here have huge problems - they regularly fall sick or turn up late. Tegan has some kind of inner strength and inspires the others.” Tegan, himself, says that his dream is “to become someone and support myself either as a doctor or teacher”. But this is not all he wants.

“My friends on the street pretend to be strong but sometimes I see them crying at night. Life shouldn't have to be like this. I'd like things to change for them.”

Understanding Poverty's Impact on Children

Sisay Abebe, Inter Press Service News Agency IPS, Addis Ababa, Sep 9, 2008

[accessed 12 May 2011]

[accessed 29 November 2016]

When the school bell rings, Alemtsehay and her three younger sisters rush home to change out of their school uniforms and into tattered clothes to go out begging around Bole Road, one of Addis Ababa's smarter areas.  Accompanied by their five-year -old brother, they roam the streets asking passersby for money. They are each expected to bring home at least 10 birr (one dollar) a day.  "I prefer to beg around Bole, which is far from my home, because I don't want my classmates to see me and mock me as a pauper," says 14-year-old Alemtsehay, who is a grade five student.

For Alemtsehay, begging is degrading but she has no other alternative to get money, feed the family and keep herself in school. At night they are harassed by men who want to use them for sex, thus exposing them to HIV.

Genet's story: A life on the streets

BBC News, 20 November 2007

[accessed 12 May 2011]

Violence and sexual abuse within the home are among the main reasons children run away to live on the streets, according to a report, the State of the World's Street Children, published by a coalition of charities.

In Ethiopia, an estimated 150,000 children live on the streets. The story of Genet, now living in a safehouse in Addis Ababa, is similar to those of many such children, especially girls.

A glimmer of hope in Ethiopia

Ronan Scully, Galway Independent, 14th March 2007

[accessed 23 September 2011]

[accessed 29 November 2016]

There are twice as many Ethiopians hungry today as there were during the 1984 famine when one million people starved.  This uneasy truth means that, every year, up to eight million people, twice the population of Ireland, are starving or die of hunger.

Ethiopia receives the most relief aid but the least development aid in the world.  More than 80,000 children die from malaria each year. Untreated mosquito nets cost just €2 and treated mosquito nets cost only €5.  Average life expectancy is 44 years, infant mortality is at 20 per cent and unemployment rests around 80 per cent.  Most of the 75 million people who live in Ethiopia survive on less than 50 cents a day.

There are over seven million orphans and close to half a million street children.

Dancing to a better future in Ethiopia

Elana Ringler, Reuters, ADDIS ABABA, Mar 28, 2007

[accessed 12 May 2011]

At the age of 12, Jemal was one of 18 street children picked by the troupe to receive dance instruction in one of the world's poorest countries.  After five years of intensive training, Jemal became a world renowned professional contemporary dancer, receiving the prestigious Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative award for his choreography.

Committee on Rights of Child examines report of Ethiopia

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Press Release, 12 Sep 2006

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

[accessed 12 May 2011]

There were some issues related to detention of street children and in connection with some arrests that had taken place in recent times, the delegation said. The law was clear that if the police were to detain a person, they had to be taken before the courts in 48 hours. There was also a policy of habeas corpus on which the law was very clear. With regards to the detention of children in various incidents of recent civil unrest, there had been supervision by the courts and the prosecution, with the result that some of these schoolboys had had their prosecution dropped and the suspects had been released. There were a lot of street-children in Addis Ababa, and they were not detained merely because they were street-children.

Woman sells possessions to build a children's home in Ethiopia

Rosanne Zammit, Oromia Times, December 29, 2006

[accessed 12 May 2011]

Work on a home for sick street children in Ethiopia, being funded by 70-year-old Monica Tonna Barthet, is on schedule.  Ms Tonna Barthet is building the home in Addis Ababa under the umbrella of the Kebena Kidane Mihret Catholic Church. She bought the land earlier this year, construction started soon after and the home should hopefully take in its first children in March.

The primary objective of the Angels Children's Home is to provide care and support for about 25 sick street children by creating a nurturing environment where the children can live together as a family.

Child Prostitution in Ethiopia

[Last access date unavailable]

[accessed 17 January 2017]

[see column on the right]

"I've been working on the street for 3 years because I had a conflict with my parents. My stepfather used to get drunk and beat us. Also, he used to favour my sister who is his real daughter. I met some girls on the street and I began to get close with them. I became friends with them, and we're still friends. Two of the older girls used to work and give us the money to live. All I used to think about was my family, but these people were good to me so I followed them. I was really hurt by my family experience and these people were nice to me.

Goal activities - Sep 2006

GOAL, 20 Sep 2006

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

[accessed 12 May 2011]

ETHIOPIA - GOAL’s street children’s programme in Addis Ababa has two drop-in centres providing access to healthcare (including HIV/AIDS support), meals, counselling, education, sport, washing facilities, and recreation activities for children. Five night shelters provide over 200 bed spaces for vulnerable, homeless children.

In pictures: Underground children

BBC News, Jun 12, 2006

[accessed 13 May 2011]

IN HIDING - Blink and you will miss the underground children in Ethiopia's capital city.  They live in tunnels, sewers and drainage holes, hidden beneath Addis Ababa's teeming streets.  They move from one makeshift shelter to the next, chased away by police or the rivers of water and refuse that flow when the rains come.  Growing up amidst the traffic, they learn to hustle at a young age seeking change or selling small items to drivers at traffic lights.

Child Protection: Street Children

Angel Tabe, Voice of America VOA News, May 09, 2007

[accessed 29 November 2016]

Assefa Bequele is the executive director of the African Policy Forum, an advocacy center in Ethiopia.  VOA English to Africa reporter Angel Tabe asked him why children end up living on the streets. “The breakdown of family structures, for example the rising level of divorce, poverty, school system not progressing, orphans as a result of the AIDS pandemic, communities have failed to provide a conducive ecology for families and the state, to provide for the basic needs of its people.”

The reversal of a boy's HIV status is the road to new life. He's one of lucky ones

Jonathan Clayton in Addis Ababa, The Times, May 19, 2006

[accessed 7 September 2014]

There are estimated to be 50,000 street children in the centre of Addis Ababa. Some have lost their parents to Aids, some have run away from abusive relatives.  Others, particularly girls, have been abducted and brought to the city by Fagin-like older men.  “They are forced to work in workshops or as maids,” says Dagmawi Alemayeau, of the Forum on Street Children. “Often they are pushed into prostitution.” – htsccp

Arrive. Make a Scene. Take A Photo. Leave

May 20, 2006 – Source:

[accessed 17 January 2017]

The main reason I did not want to attract attention is because the Federal Police are notorious for treating street kids inhumanely, and I did not want them to find these kids’ shelter. They would no doubt run them off, and the boys would be in an even worse position.

Poverty hits hard on Ethiopia’s vulnerable kids

Panafrican News Agency PANA, Addis Ababa, October 20, 2005

[accessed 13 May 2011]

[accessed 29 November 2016]

Their personal accounts of survival in poverty are emotionally gripping and profoundly disgusting, yet Ethiopia’s street children are avowedly determined not to go back to their countryside roots. Many of them are orphans, but in their ranks too are those who have been abandoned by parents or close relatives after being intentionally subjected to cruelty, including maiming. Others simply find the streets as the only haven where they can strike up friendship that actually gives them the strength to survive as they forage for food.

Background Report On Street Children In Ethiopia

Hilletework Mathias, Voice of America VOA, Washington DC, 07-Jan-2000

[accessed 13 May 2011]

UNICEF estimates that there are more than 150-thousand street children in the country and economic problems have made many of them assume responsibilities normally reserved for adults.  Their ages range mostly between eight and 20.  They include orphaned, disabled, neglected, and abandoned children all over the country.  They can be seen on any day, wearing torn clothes, roaming barefoot, and begging motorists and pedestrians in Addis Ababa.  Some scavenge through garbage for food and material to build shelter.  Others spend their days selling things or sleeping on sidewalks beneath plastic sheeting or anything that can provide cover.

Circus In Ethiopia For Street Children And AIDS Orphans

Henriëtte Emaar, The Power of Culture, Current Affairs, May 2004

[accessed 13 May 2011]

The circus is more than performing feats. Street children and AIDS orphans there are trained as performers, and their songs deal with topics including AIDS and children's rights.

Focus on the Plight of Street Children

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Addis Ababa, 14 January 2002

[accessed 10 March 2015]

Surviving on scraps from garbage she soon became sick, her stomach infested with worms and her skin and hair riddled with lice. But Frehiwot is lucky. She is described as a success story – plucked from the streets of Addis Ababa and re-united with her family.

Ethiopia: Focus on street children rehabilitation project

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Addis Ababa, 1 March 2004

[accessed 10 March 2015]

MORE THAN HALF A MILLION STREET CHILDREN - Aid agencies estimate nearly 600,000 street children country-wide and over 100,000 in Addis Ababa.  UNICEF says the problem may be getting worse because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and falling incomes. HIV/AIDS has already orphaned 1 million children in Ethiopia.

Information about Street Children - Ethiopia [DOC]

This report is taken from “A Civil Society Forum for East and Southern Africa on Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Street Children”, 11- 13 February 2002, Nairobi, Kenya

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

[accessed 23 September 2011]

CONSTRAINTS AND CHALLENGES - Extreme level of poverty cannot be easily tackled with piecemeal program activities; rural/urban disparities and the prevalence of traditional practices and customs in rural areas; Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs does not have adequate resources and capacity to address the ever-increasing problems of children.

Cruel and Inhumane Actions Against Street Children in Addis Ababa

Children's Rights Programme, World Organisation Against Torture OMCT Case ETH 080501.CC, Child Concern, 8/5/2001

[accessed 13 May 2011]

Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO), a member of the OMCT network, that the government is engaged in cruel and inhumane actions against street children in Addis Ababa.

Due to the recent conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia, children who do not have parents or economically strong relatives to support them are forced to discontinue their education. The streets, churches, mosques, bus and taxi stations of cities in Ethiopia are crowded by a increasing number of these defenseless citizens.

According to the information received, as of February 2001, the government tried to solve this problem by rounding them up, taking them to and abandoning them to hyenas and other wild animals in forests outside the city. A number of the children that EHRCO has been able to interview reported that some of their friends, especially the very young and weak, which had been taken with them to these forests, have so far not returned.

All material used herein reproduced under the fair use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.  PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS OF COMPONENT ARTICLES.  Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Street Children - Ethiopia",, [accessed <date>]