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Human Trafficking

Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

In the first decade of the 21st Century                                                      

Republic of Yemen

Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, reported average annual growth in the range of 3-4% from 2000 through 2007.

Yemen's economic fortunes depend mostly on declining oil resources, but the country is trying to diversify its earnings. In 2006 Yemen began an economic reform program designed to bolster non-oil sectors of the economy and foreign investment.  [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 Yemen.  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.


YEMEN: New study highlights plight of street children

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Sanaa, 8 July 2008

[accessed 10 March 2015]

Ahmed (not his real name) has been sleeping near a secondary school in the centre of Sanaa city, Yemen's capital, for almost a year. He said he had come from the northern governorate of Amran to work and support his family back home.  The 14-year-old sells cigarettes and sweets in the city.

"My father went to Saudi Arabia three years ago to find a job but didn't come back. I have three brothers and one sister and my mother asked me to find any job here in Sanaa to sustain them," he said.  The boy makes 400-800 Yemeni riyals (about US$2-4) a day and did not want to rent a room, in order to save money.

Ahmed is among an estimated 30,000 street children in Yemen, of whom 60 percent work and sleep on the streets and tend to be separated from their families, according to a new study. The remaining 40 percent work the streets but return to some kind of makeshift home at night.

Street children at increased risk of sexual abuse

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Sanaa, 25 June 2007

[accessed 10 March 2015]

INCREASED NUMBER OF STREET CHILDREN - "If they have been on the street for a long time, the chances of them being sexually abused is around 90 percent," Shugaa said.  According to reports, boys as young as eight have been lured into the cars of strangers for as little as US$1, while others are sexually abused by older boys living rough on the street - a dire reminder of the vicious circle of abuse found throughout the world involving street children.

Yet the boys, generally brought into the center by police or the center's own outreach programme, rarely divulge the abuse they have suffered.  "I never did those kinds of bad things, but I know others who have," one 13-year-old boy at the center whispered, glancing away from the peering eyes of other boys. "When you are hungry you do what you have to do," he said, adding he knew of several occasions when a boy would be brought to a man's home for a few days and routinely abused, before being let go.

"Yes, there are some bad boys doing bad things," said another child at the centre who did not know his own age and who had been left on the streets by his mother to fend for himself after the death of his father in 1995.


*** 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 17 January 2011]

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Children also work as street vendors, beggars, domestic servants, and in the fishing, leather, construction, and automobile repair sectors.

CURRENT GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND PROGRAMS TO ELIMINATE THE WORST FORMS OF CHILD LABOR - In collaboration with the Mayor of Sana’a, ILO-IPEC began providing remedial education and vocational training in 2003 in a rehabilitation center for street children who are victims of child labor.

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 11 February 2020]

CHILDREN - Child labor was a problem. The Child Rights Law prohibits child labor; however, the law has not been implemented, and children as young as four years of age worked in workshops, agriculture, or as street vendors.

SECTION 6 WORKER RIGHTS – [d] The Child Rights Law prohibits child labor; however, it has not been effectively implemented.

The established minimum age for employment was 15 years in the private sector and 18 years in the public sector. By special permit, children between the ages of 12 and 15 years could work. The government rarely enforced these provisions, especially in rural and remote areas. The government also did not enforce laws requiring nine years of compulsory education for children.

Child labor was common, especially in rural areas. Many children were required to work in subsistence farming due to family poverty. Even in urban areas, children worked in stores and workshops, sold goods and begged on the streets. Many children of school age worked instead of attending school, particularly in areas in which schools were not easily accessible.

The Child Labor Unit at the Ministry of Labor was responsible for implementing and enforcing child labor laws and regulations; however, the unit's lack of resources hampered enforcement.

The Ministry of Labor estimated that there were close to half a million working children, ages 6 to 14 years, and that working children equaled 10 to 15 percent of the total work force. The government was an active partner with the ILO's International Program to Eliminate Child Labor. During the year, this program offered remedial education, vocational training, counseling, and reintegration of child laborers into schools. In September 2004 the government entered into a grant agreement with a foreign government aimed at combating the worst forms of child labor in the country

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

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 3 June 2005

[accessed 17 January 2011]

[70] The Committee is deeply concerned at the information that many children are trafficked to Saudi Arabia, often with the support of their parents, and that quite a number of them are sent back and end up in the streets of larger cities.

[72] While welcoming the Program and Rehabilitation of Street children and the construction of the safe Childhood Centre, in the capital municipality also extended to the governorate of Aden, the Committee expresses its concern at the increasing number of street children and the vulnerability of these children to sexual abuse and exploitation and at the lack of a systematic and comprehensive strategy to address the situation and protect these children.

State of children in Yemen deteriorates, Children’s Parliament

Ashwaq Arrabyee, The Yemen Observer, Culture & Society,  Feb 3, 2009

[accessed 17 January 2011]

[accessed 15 January 2017]

For his part, the Director of the Democratic School Jamal al-Shami said the situation of children in Yemen is shameful; nearly 2 million children are out of school, 600,000 are working, and 30,000 are in the streets of Sana’a and in local jails.   “Through field visits to prisons and schools, we have noticed that children are exposed to torture by police officers, as well as violence in homes, in schools, and on the streets. This is in addition to other issues, including harassment and rape; about 60% of children in prisons and refuge homes are exposed to some forms of torture,” Al-Shami said.

SITUATION OF THE CHILDREN OF SOMALI REFUGEES - The situation of Somali refugees is particularly bad in the Haraz Camp. The camp is overcrowded, there are no primary or secondary schools, there are not enough books, and newborns are not registered.

Bad Economic Policies Blamed for Children Drop out

Abdul Rahim Al-Showthabi, YEMEN POST, December 15, 2008

[accessed 17 August 2011]

Improper economic policies is to be blamed for children’s daily struggle for survival that often sees them ending up as drug addicts, drug dealers or even as sex slaves in the case of girls  according to a study. The study, conducted by the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Children (SCMC), in cooperation with the Arab Council for Children and Development also mentions that poverty, job loss, high fertility rates, lack of social services, and lack of support for the poor by the government contributed to the crisis of street children.

The study also found that street children are affected by a number of diseases like diarrhea, malaria, backache, constant dizziness, chronic chest inflammations, ophthalmic, hepatitis and tonsillitis.

Government study shows 30000 children working in 8 Yemeni provinces

Saba Net - Yemen News Agency SABA, Sana'a, 15/August/2008

[accessed 17 August 2011]

According to the study, prepared by the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood in cooperation with the Arab Council for Childhood and Development, the majority of street children are aged between 6 -14 years and the rate of male children reached 70 per cent.

The study mentioned that the street children work as street vendors, cars washers, cleaners and beggars in addition to working in markets, restaurants, laundries and furnaces.  According to the study, diseases affecting the street children included malaria, diarrhea, various infections, diabetes, anemia, pains of spinal and back, liver and skin diseases and headaches and stomach pains.

Fears over possibly rising number of child labourers

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Sanaa, 27 August 2007

[accessed 10 March 2015]

"The situation [in the country] is miserable. Child labour is on the rise due to the deteriorated economic situation of most families," Jamal al-Shami, chairman of Democracy School, a local non-governmental organisation (NGO), told IRIN.  Al-Shami said children now believe they have to work because by so doing they contribute to the family income.

Child labour has also increased the school dropout rate. "There are about two million children out of school," al-Shami said, adding that most of them will end up illiterate.

Street children

Anwar Mughram, Yemen Times, April 9, 2007

[accessed 15 January 2017]

Thus, the streets become the sole place for such children where they spend both their working hours and their resting times. Lying on cartons with only the sky as their roof, Mukalla street children spend their days and nights there, not resorting to blankets due to the hot weather. When they want to use a toilet, they must wait for mosque bathrooms to open at prayer times.

“Poverty, want and extremely low income are the main reasons for the phenomenon,” agrees Hassan Al-Odaini, a child street vendor who sells kitchen equipment in Mukalla’s women’s market, “What causes a father send his child to such a faraway city to work are dire circumstances, poverty and low income.”

He also mentioned blackmail practiced against street children by their bosses. “They quite often deduct sums from our salary without any apparent reason, except that we are children,” Ali lamented, “They don’t consider our hard living conditions, together with our families; rather, they treat us as if they have neither families nor children of their own.”

Working toward a better future for Yemeni children

Thuria Ghaleb, Yemen Observer, Mar 20, 2007

[accessed 17 August 2011]

According to poverty surveys in 1999, the number of al-Akhdam children, perhaps the poorest and most disadvantaged in Yemen, amounts to 129,115. These children remain on society’s margin as a result of the passive public attitude, as well as poverty. It is a difficult thing to give figures on the street children because of the absence of analytical studies or surveys. About 53 percent of poor people in Yemen are children under 15 years old. The teen and young adult years, from 15 to 24 years old, are also targeted by the strategy. 

The illiteracy rate of this group is about 50 percent, while the ones who can read and write are just 33 percent.  The young females in this age group have the lowest enrollment in secondary education and universities, about 16.3 percent, compared with 40.8 percent of the young males.  Of all female workers, between15 to 24 years old, only 14 percent of them go to schools, compared with 59 percent of male workers.  The small number of teachers in schools is another reason for the deterioration of education in this age group.

A study of street children in Yemen

Abdul-Aziz Oudah, Yemen Observer, Jan 16, 2007

[accessed 17 August 2011]

About 5,000 children are forced to live on the streets in four Yemeni governorates, according to the results of the first stage of a new comprehensive survey of street children.

Stray animals are the most abused and unwanted in Yemen

[Last access date unavailable]

You said in your proposal that this project will provide beggars and street children with opportunities to work in the shelter, but you don’t give any details of how that can be applied? Do contact with any street children organizations in this regard?

Our project, if it can pull all its resources together, hopes to work with YERO, a street children organization. Its initiator has already agreed to coordinate with our project so we can both benefit from each other.

Yemeni children narrate their sufferings on the street

Anwar Murghim & Fatima Al-Ajel, The Yemen Times, Sanaa, 21 September 2006

[accessed 17 August 2011]

Yemeni street children are deprived of play, pleasure and enjoying their childhood. Such children know nothing of childhood except their thin bodies and innocence; however, they act as men through their work and the responsibility placed upon their shoulders at a young age.

They shoulder the responsibility for others before themselves. Such is their fate and their family circumstances, whether social or economic. They must spend long hours on the streets under the sun’s blazing heat. What they receive from their work is nothing as compared to the exploitation of their childhood, which is subject to various sorts of violence.

Factors affecting Yemeni street children

Anwar Mughram, Yemen Times, August 28, 2006

[accessed 15 January 2017]

Aged between 6 and 18, Street children can be categorized according to their type of work, the time of day they work and their living situation.  Most children working or begging part of the day or night are enrolled in school. They study in the morning and work or beg at night, returning home to spend the night with their family.  Children who work during the day usually are school dropouts or those who didn’t attend school at all. Most are from rural areas and live away from their family. They either come to cities with relatives or alone and spend the night in inns or living in groups in apartments.

Yemeni street children work in the following professions:  Street vendors selling clothes, home appliances and other commodities on streets and at traffic lights/intersections;  Car washers in street intersections and car parks;  Porters carrying commodities on their shoulders or on carts working in general open markets and fruit and vegetable markets;  Workers in restaurants and cafés;  Fare collectors on buses.

Government is losing street children

Yemen Times Staff, Sana'a, Aug. 20 2006

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

[accessed 17 August 2011]

The number of street children in Sana'a governorate, according to a previous study conducted by MSAL, there were 15,000 children on the streets. In the mean time, this phenomenon is on increase due to the spread of poverty and more drop-outs from school.

Women complain of the rise of street harassment

Kawkab al-Thaibani, Yemen Observer, Jul 11, 2006

[accessed 17 August 2011]

Another girl blamed poverty and social fragmentation- “They have no goals, no jobs, and too much free time” she said. “Poverty is part of the problem because it means there are a lot of street children, and they soon learn how to bother girls on the street.”

The economic and social situation of street children: A study

Mohammed Al-Jabri, Sana'a University, June 29, 2006

[accessed 15 January 2017]

Most street children stated that a large part of their income contributes to their families’ needs. It’s indicated that 92.9 percent of children whose families live in Sana’a city assist their families financially; whereas 85 percent of children whose families live outside Sana’a assist their families financially.

Some fathers believe the street children phenomenon isn’t caused by family problems, but rather by poverty. During a focus group discussion, one father explained, “I was married to four wives. We had no problems, although each wife gave birth to a child per year. After my economic situation worsened, I divorced three of them. Now I don’t know where my kids are. I only have the kids from the fourth wife and they dropped out of school. They work and beg and the reason is poverty.”

Leprosy, sexual and skin diseases Yemeni street children at risk

Amel Al-Ariqi, Yemen Times, 19-June-2006

[accessed 15 January 2017]

MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO DISEASE - Due to the absence of personal cleanliness and prevailing unsanitary conditions, most street children suffer scabies, chicken pox, measles and other infectious illnesses transmitted by direct and indirect contact, according to Kashnoon. “These children also are subjected to respiratory diseases like sore throat, pneumonia, bronchitis and tonsillitis, which may lead to meningitis,” he confirmed.

Information about Street Children - Yemen [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 17 August 2011]

The phenomenon of street children in Yemen is quite new, but can be traced back to the early 1990s, when the country endured a serious economic crisis.  The number of children on the streets today is rapidly increasing and includes children of the marginalized group of Akhdam (the servant class), children of the returnees from the first Gulf war, children of families who came from other governorates and settled in Sana’a city, and children of poor families that live in Sana’a city.

Yemen's Street Children Vulnerable to Numerous Abuses

[Last access date unavailable]

Available information indicates that Yemen’s street children face harsh living conditions and are vulnerable to numerous abuses. Some of the worst-off fall prey to adults who involve them in prostitution, drug-trafficking and other illicit activities. According to the ILO, cases of sexual abuse, psychological trauma and drug addiction are common among these children.

30,000 street children in Yemen

Mohammed bin Sallam, Yemen Times, Sana’a, 12-08-2009

[accessed 17 August 2011]

[accessed 15 January 2017]

More than 30.000 children are living as vagrants in the streets of Yemen, according to a study presented by the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF.  The study mentioned that about 58 per cent, wash cars and beg, 17 per cent work as hardware collectors, 7 per cent work as cattle grazers, 5 per cent work as fruit and vegetable sellers, 4 per cent as porters, 3 per cent as donkey cart riders, 2 per cent in bakeries.

Juveniles Between The Reality And Ambition

Yemen Times, Issue: (652), Volume 13 , From 21 July 2003 to 23 July 2003

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

[accessed 17 August 2011]

PAINFUL SCENES - Gamil Massoud al-Wasabi, 12-year-old, loiters bare-footed in Aden streets for two years, putting on shabby dirty clothes and he was supposed to be in school and under the care of his family.  Being so young has not softened the heart of his father who wants him to go out begging in the streets or to work for providing money for his family.

Committee On Rights Of Child Concludes Review Of Yemeni Report On Measures To Implement Convention

UN Committee on the Rights on the Child, Press Release

[accessed 17 August 2011]

DISCUSSION - Concerning street children and beggars, the delegation said that the problem of poverty had increased the rate of street children and those making a living through begging.  The Government had taken steps to combat the phenomenon of street children, particularly child beggars.  The authorities were also undertaking a study of the situation in order to find alternative means to keep away children from the streets.

Rude awakening

Peter Willems, Yemen Times Issue: (738), Volume 13 , From 17 May 2004 to 19 May 2004

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

[accessed 2 October 2011]

UNICEF discovered child trafficking in Yemen a little over a year ago. While working with children spending time in prison and child labor, it came across children who had the experience of being shipped off to Saudi Arabia.  “When we were working with street children, we discovered that there was a problem of child trafficking in the country that we were not aware of,” said Shalan. “These children started talking about their experiences. They had already been in Saudi Arabia, they were abused, and they talked to us about the horrendous conditions they went through.”

Parents, Children Complicit In Human Trafficking

Mohammed Al-Attab, Yemen Observer Vol.VIII Issue 05, Sana’a, Feb 5, 2005

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

[accessed 2 October 2011]

The report found that most children started the journey accompanied by a direct relation, although some children traveled with other children instead.  According to the study, just over 50% fell within the age range 13-16 years old, and of the 59 cases, only two were girls.  On arrival in Saudi Arabia, nearly 75% of children successfully found work, but most were unable to find a place to live.  64.5% had no place of residence and therefore lived on the street.

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