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Senegal is a relatively stable country where poverty nevertheless remains a problem for many. Children grow up in hazardous conditions, constantly at risk from child labour, trafficking and exploitation. In Dakar alone, it is estimated that over 7,000 children survive by begging on the street. SOS Children's Villages has been working to bring a better life to families in Senegal since 1977. … more about our charity work in Senegal

BBC's Panorama investigates child beggars

BBC's Panorama investigates child beggars

Tonight on BBC One, Panorama investigates 'Britain's Child Beggars'. The programme takes a look at the sad reality of children, some as young as four, who live and beg on the streets of the UK, sometimes making up to £500 a day for their minders.

Sadly, child begging is a problem found in countries all over the world. Although some child beggars are being exploited by "minders" for profit, others are genuinely alone. Children are forced to live and survive on the streets, sometimes because they have been orphaned, often by HIV/AIDS, or abandoned by their parents who are living in desperate poverty and unable to care for them.

Child beggars of Senegal

In Senegal, thousands of children each day beg for money from passing cars and pedestrians. According to UNICEF more than 100,000 children are begging across Senegal, representing nearly 1 percent of the population. Hungry and exhausted, many spend their days sleeping on the streets.

Some are orphans, but some are handed over to religious leaders, known as marabouts, by their parents. Poor parents who cannot afford to care for their children often entrust them to marabouts to educate them and teach them the Koran.  But sometimes, their `marabout’ does not have the means to support them, meaning many children are exploited. 

With a third of the population surviving on less than a dollar a day, widespread poverty means that thousands of children are left to fend for themselves.

Helping children on the streets

SOS Children work to prevent children from living on the streets through our Family Strengthening Programmes (FSPs). FSPs are designed to support parents to care for their children, avoiding complete family break-up and children being left alone. SOS provide families with food, medical care, counselling and school fees. We also provide training in income-generating activities for parents so that they can set up their own businesses and support their families’ financial needs.

SOS Children also provide direct support for children who already live on the streets, through our SOS Medical and Social Centres. Where there is a need, Social Centres offer ‘drop in’ sessions and provide street children with food, information on HIV/AIDS, education and training. Our 68 Medical Centres offer a full range of health services to nearly 400,000 people every year. This includes many street children in need of treatment for medical problems such as respiratory infections, malaria and stomach disorders.