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Street children caught up in Egypt’s protests

Egypt’s pro-democracy activists have called on demonstrators to gather today in Tahrir square for a “Tuesday of Challenge”.

The organisers hope the rally will attract a million Egyptians back onto the streets and pressurise the army into changing the interim administration. Pro-democracy campaigners are annoyed that ministers who were part of President Mubarak’s cabinet remain in government to oversee constitutional change. Mohamed ElBaradei, the leading opposition figure who recently returned to Egypt, is reported by Reuters to have expressed his solidarity with the demonstrators. “The regime will not be reformed from within the regime”, Mr ElBaradei said. Another march is also planned for Friday, when millions more people are expected to join a rally to reassert demands for democracy and reform.

One charity, Save the Children, has called attention to the impact the ongoing demonstrations have had on the street children of Cairo, who are estimated to number around 50,000. Though many of the children have joined the rallies and expressed excitement over events in the city, the instability has left them particularly vulnerable. In an Alertnet article, Save the Children confirmed that one homeless boy was shot and killed in the early violent clashes and other children have been wounded, though exact numbers are hard to obtain.

The charity is also concerned about the psychological trauma suffered by the children after the fear and uncertainty of recent events. Jane Gibreel, Save the Children’s country director, says that some children have been showing “more aggressive behaviour than normal”. The charity is trying to address their trauma with drama sessions, where the children are encouraged to make up plays to help them come to terms with their experiences. The charity also hopes to increase its support of local organisations who work with the street children and provide education, training or drop-in centres where they can spend the day. These centres can also help if the children have medical or other needs. Since many street children lack identity cards, it’s hard for them to access health or social facilities through the state. One of the charity’s partner organisations provides legal aid assistance so homeless children can obtain official documents.

Regardless of the impact on ordinary citizens, demonstrations look set to continue in the capital as Egyptians move to keep up pressure on the military leaders. The country director of Save The Children is certainly one of those looking forward to the change and speaks of her hopes that a new government will improve services for young people in Egypt and strengthen children’s rights.

Laurinda Luffman signature