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Street children’s hope for new Egypt

As Egypt slowly finds its feet a week after its revolution, street children in the capital, Cairo who joined the protests in Tahrir Square, are hoping for a better future.

An estimated 50,000 children live on the streets of Cairo, though no one knows the true figure.

Many of them orphans, glue-sniffers and drug-addicted, they miss out on basics like health care and schooling because they are not registered with the authorities. They also face arrest for not carrying ID and have no hope of being able to afford any sort of lawyer.

Egyptian government statistics claim that only 5,000 beggar children live on the streets, a figure which aid agencies say is covering up a scandal 10 times as big.

All they can hope for now is that in the ‘new Egypt’, life will treat them better. “I want a president who will be kind to us, someone who can feel the suffering of the people,” said Mohamed. He told aid workers from Save the Children that he had been living on the streets for five or six years, cleaning cars to scratch a living after his father beat him so badly that he had to leave home.

Children like Mohamed are incredibly vulnerable − Save the Children has confirmed reports of girls as young as 13 giving birth. Forced to live from day to day, many use drugs to escape the hardship of life on Egypt’s streets. The vast majority were sucked into the violent protests of the past weeks, attracted by the sense of excitement and free food. But when violence broke out they were left with no-where to go.

Save the Children has records of at least one homeless child, Ismail, 16 who died in the protests, and of others who were badly injured. But there are no official figures of how many street children were caught up in the demonstrations.

Ismail’s friend, Karim, who has lived on the streets for the past 11 years, told how Ismail was shot dead during the demonstrations.

He was just walking up Khairat Street and was hit by a bullet,” he told an aid worker. “I heard that the whole country was in trouble, that everyone was dying, and I thought I was going to die.

He doesn’t ask much of the future. “I hope that one day I can get an ID, a birth certificate, a place to live and a family,” he said.

Hayley attribution