How many are there?
Nobody knows for sure. They move around a lot, and are often excluded from places where they would appear as a statistic. Street children are not easy to count. Estimates of their number differ widely – anywhere from 30 to 170 million. Often quoted figures are that there are approximately 100 million or 150 million. Some people present low numbers in order to hide the problems, others may want to exaggerate and sensationalise the situation, often presenting the children as ’victims’.
It is unquestionable that there are tens of millions of street-connected children worldwide.
Using the words of the CSC and of EarthAction, regardless of the numbers, even one child on the streets is one too many.
Particular circumstances such as warfare, deteriorating economies and natural disasters can increase their numbers. There is anecdotal evidence that the global numbers are increasing because of uncontrolled urbanisation linked with poverty, conflict and the spread of AIDS. It therefore seems likely that their number is increasing.
While there are far fewer girls than boys, the estimates (that girls make up between 3% and 30 % of the street child population) are so different as to be almost meaningless. Girls are more vulnerable to violence (including sexual attacks) on the street, although this is also a problem for boys.
A recent Plan International report Because I am a girl includes a chapter entitled Hidden in plain view: adolescent girls on the streets. A pdf of the report is here: Because I am a girl. Plan International report (all 199 pages) but if you prefer, there’s a 6pp summary Because I am a girl summary report