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Human Trafficking

Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

In the first decade of the 21st Century                                         

Islamic Republic of Mauritania

Half the population still depends on agriculture and livestock for a livelihood, even though many of the nomads and subsistence farmers were forced into the cities by recurrent droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. Mauritania has extensive deposits of iron ore, which account for nearly 40% of total exports. The nation's coastal waters are among the richest fishing areas in the world, but overexploitation by foreigners threatens this key source of revenue. The country's first deepwater port opened near Nouakchott in 1986.

The Government continues to emphasize reduction of poverty, improvement of health and education, and privatization of the economy.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]


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


ECPAT Global Monitoring Report on the status of action against commercial exploitation of children - MAURITANIA [PDF]

ECPAT International, 2007

[accessed 19 June 2011]

[accessed 24 December 2016]

A number of studies focusing on street children found that many are being exploited through prostitution, including boys. According to a study by Father François Lefort, street children are targeted by unscrupulous adults, often foreigners, who exploit them either as pimps or directly. In a 2003 report, he attested to having treated 103 children abused by seven westerners. He also reported that, out of 400 children living without their families in the streets of Nouakchott (the capital city), almost 10 per cent earn their living through prostitution.


*** 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 20 February 2011]

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Children perform a wide range of urban informal activities, such as street work and domestic work, as well as work as cashiers, dishwashers in restaurants, car washers, and apprentices in garages.  In addition, some children living with marabouts, or Koranic teachers, are forced to beg, sometimes for over 12 hours a day.

In 2002, a WFP survey of out-of-school children in Mauritania found that 25 percent did not attend school due to the need to support their families or perform domestic work, and another 22 percent did not attend due to the distance to school.

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 10 February 2020]

CHILDREN - Attendance was required at school for six years, but full implementation of universal primary education was not scheduled to be completed until at least 2007, primarily because of lack of financial resources needed to provide educational facilities and teachers throughout the country, especially in remote areas. The 2002-03 official attendance rate was steady at 92 percent. Education was free through university level. Classes were fully integrated, including boys and girls from all social and ethnic groups. Children of slave families were allowed to attend school.

Local NGOs estimated that there were up to 400 street children, largely as a result of poverty and of the urbanization of formerly nomadic families. The former government implemented a program to assist families with street children and to encourage their school attendance.

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

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 12 October 2001

[accessed 20 February 2011]

[45] While noting the increase in the number of schools and classrooms, the Committee is nevertheless concerned that only approximately 60 per cent of children attend school and that there are great gender and regional disparities. It further notes with concern the high drop-out and repeating rates; the inadequacy of the school curriculum; the high teacher-pupil ratio, especially in the capital, Nouakchott; the low enrolment rate in secondary schools; the inadequate school infrastructure; and the low number of children receiving pre-school education. Furthermore, the Committee expresses its concern at the lack of play space and recreational facilities for children, especially in rural areas.

[49] The Committee is concerned about the high number of children engaged in labor, in particular children working in agriculture, in the informal sector and in the street, including the talibés who are exploited by their teachers.

Why are they in the Street?

Réseau d’Échanges Pour les Enfants des Rues (Network of Exchanges to help Street Children) REPER, 4 March 2011

[accessed 19 June 2011]

BROKEN FAMILIES - a child may have been rejected by a stepfather or stepmother.  This is a very frequent problem.  In Nouakchott, 70% of the street children are from broken families.

POLITICAL CAUSES - Children separated from their families because of border closures.  This is what happened in Mauritania, which had closed borders for years.  Entire families were taken by surprise and separated.

Committee On Rights Of Child Starts Consideration Of Initial Report Of Mauritania

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 25 September 2001

[accessed 19 June 2011]

Primary education was obligatory from the age of 6 years and a law imposed penalties against parents who failed to send their children to school.  Orphans and street children were not rejected within the Mauritanian society, the delegation said.  Orphaned children were generally taken in by the extended families and other institutions.  Children could only become street children following the erosion of the family and the African traditional system.

Committee On The Elimination Of Racial Discrimination - Consideration Of Reports Submitted By States Parties Under Article 9 Of The Convention

UN International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination CERD, 26 October 1998

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

[accessed 19 June 2011]

141. This problem, which is a recent one in Mauritanian society, is still very limited because traditions of solidarity continue to exist and because certain services, such as education and health, are provided free of charge. Another reason, however, is that there are no declared cases of children born out of wedlock.

142. In order to prevent the growth of this phenomenon, the social affairs sector has established a program of monitoring, assisting and protecting children in difficulties. The program has five components: locating street children at night-time; providing them with shelter and lending them a sympathetic ear; placing delinquent minors in rehabilitation centers; placing children whose immediate reintegration in the family cannot be contemplated in open children's homes; and social and vocational integration with the support of the Vocational Training Center.

143. This program currently covers 800 children and adolescents and has enabled 23 per cent of them to return to their families, 30 per cent to be educated in open-system homes, 10 per cent to receive training in a trade and 37 per cent to be educated under supervision in a closed environment.

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