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GUATEMALAN STREET CHILDREN


About  6 thousand children living on the streets of Guatemala City, in precarious conditions really, most inhale glue or any other chemical that can keep them away from hunger, cold and loneliness, are dedicated to steal in and many different ways,  many girls prostitute themselves to get some money and able to feed or buy more drugs. Most of the children are between 7 and 14 years. They come from poor or marginalized neighborhoods of the city areas where the population emigrated from inside the country for economic reasons or by after war situations.

The boys and street girls flee from home abuse, beatings and misery they find in their families. But street life is not better, the children are more exposed to poverty, accidents, rapes, injuries, illnesses and even murder. It is so sad to see so many children on the streets, many die, violence and hunger are the main causes of these deaths. There are institutions that are dedicated to assisting, providing, food, shelter, clothing and a small hope of being able to rehabilitate their lives.

More than 75,000 children have been identified as severely malnourished in Guatemala. This is as a result of ongoing poverty, which particularly affects children living in rural areas.

Infant mortality rates are among some of the highest in the region at 41 per 1,000 live births, while maternal mortality is 290 per 100,000 live births. Organized crime, violent street gangs and domestic violence are major problem in Guatemala, and sexual abuse and incest affect 30 per cent of girls and 18 per cent of boys.

The characterization of the character

The main protagonist, let’s call him X child, very easy to identify him; wearing red baseball cap, dirty trousers, sweaters and broken tennis shoes. It is a child of taciturn nature and melancholy, like all beggars, roam the streets of Guatemala, eating what he finds in his walk, sleeping on sidewalks as the son of anyone, as garbage of the city.

 

A life on the streets

It is known that the child X does not feel well in her aunt's house, so he wants to escape once and forever. He crosses the path another child who says that life on the street is the best thing, that one is not obliged to attend school and only need to beg to eat at ease. These insinuations are sufficient for the child X decision to leave home, after burning the photographs of his parents in the yard of his aunt's house.

So change the course of his life and begins the story of a child over the street. But very soon, while vague without further consolation of hope but feel a profound freedom inside, he realizes that life on the street is far more dangerous and complicated. While it is true that there is solidarity between those who share the same fate, it is also true that one loses confidence in others, although all share the same dreams, even to fall in love with a person who holds another status, as happens to X child, who has a crush on a girl whose parents are at home and have work and money.

The Street children, from the moment starts begging on eagerness to take bread in their mouths, as well as learn to inhale glue to escape from reality and take refuge in false illusions, learns also the rules to survive by stealing and run fast, because they, as elements as "non socials", flee from  the police, patrol cars and uniformed and armed guards, for fear that if caught they are locked in the cell in a police station, where they will stated as criminals, prostitutes and members of the "maras" (gangs) who are subjected to a regime of abuse and humiliation.

Surviving on the street

In the streets, children try to survive with its limited resources: the kids steals and begs while girls run in prostitution in the streets, in bars or in houses.

Sexual exploitation of children traumatizes them durable and put their lives at risk (mostly because of sexual diseases). This new type of slavery is a serious violation of fundamental rights of children.

The violence

The fights, rape and death caused by violent brawls and murders (knives weapons or bullets) are part of everyday life of children living on the streets.

The constant danger also comes from the operations of "social cleansing" whose goal is to eliminate the undesirable elements within society. Lack of food weakens those children who do not have a normal growth while their immune defense system is deficient. So, after those killed by gunshot, bronchitis is the second leading cause of death for Guatemalan adolescents (according www.paho.org). The aid proposed by competent adults is the only way to change the lives of these children.

Lack of supervision by society

Lack of supervision of children weakest in society, the weakness of the school system and inadequate protection in the judiciaries systems are explanations of the problem of children living on the streets. The schooling of children in primary school is high (81% according to data from the World Bank) but the results are dramatic in secondary education, to the extent that less than 19% of young Guatemalans have access to this level. Lack of resources in the education system as well as the sheer poverty of the population explains this situation. Thus, lack of supervision school explains the lack of education and the phenomenon of street children. Boys and girls suffer from social exclusion and many of them have to survive on the streets of the Guatemalan towns.


The family atmosphere

 

55% of the population lives below the poverty line (poverty maps of Guatemala, Segeplan, August 2001). In urban areas, poverty is important but it shows that the rural population suffers more misery (representing 23% of the total population). Women and children are the two categories that suffer more poverty, exclusion and discrimination. Thus, 925,000 children working to help their parents and lack of schooling and training prevents them from having a future of desirable work.

In Guatemala an alarming 600,000 children are without any legal identity. The law states that babies should be officially registered within a year of their birth, but although the registration processes itself is free of charge many families still have to pay to travel long distances to registration centers. For poor rural families this is, unsurprisingly, low on the list of priorities.

Unfortunately having no legal identity is a great disadvantage to children and can even put their lives at risk. Not only does it mean that they struggle to get access to education or health care, it also puts them at increased risk of being targeted for child prostitution, forced labor and involvement in drug cartels. Once a child is a year old and has not been officially registered it gets a lot harder to establish their legal rights.

They are also the main victims of domestic violence which has become a veritable scourge in Guatemalan society. Many of them coming from poor families, have to live on the streets where they try to survive. The number of those kids (who are between 7 and 18) continues to grow, especially those with less than 12 years. Finally, many women have unintended pregnancies.

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