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Human Trafficking

Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

In the first decade of the 21st Century                                                                                                                       


Despite the lack of effective national governance, Somalia has maintained a healthy informal economy, largely based on livestock, remittance/money transfer companies, and telecommunications. Agriculture is the most important sector, with livestock normally accounting for about 40% of GDP and about 65% of export earnings. Nomads and semi-pastoralists, who are dependent upon livestock for their livelihood, make up a large portion of the population. Livestock, hides, fish, charcoal, and bananas are Somalia's principal exports, while sugar, sorghum, corn, qat, and machined goods are the principal imports.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]


CAUTION:  The following links and accompanying text have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Somalia.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspect(s) of street life are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring how children got there, how they survive, and how some manage to leave the street.  Perhaps your paper could focus on how some street children abuse the public and how they are abused by the public … and how they abuse each other.  Would you like to write about market children? homeless children?  Sexual and labor exploitation? begging? violence? addiction? hunger? neglect? etc.  There is a lot to the subject of Street Children.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


Survival of the fittest

Independent Online (IOL) News, Mogadishu, March 11 2008

[accessed 20 July 2011]

[accessed 4 January 2017]

Stray bullets and molesters are only some of the dangers 11-year-old Abdi Mohamed Abdusamad faces when he chooses a place to sleep in the streets of Mogadishu.  War and poverty have thrown thousands of children into the streets of the Somali capital, leaving them in the crossfire of one of the world's most brutal guerrilla wars and exposed to disease, drugs and sexual violence.  Abdi spends his days collecting plastic bottles as well as the bags in which khat deliveries arrive several times a day to satisfy the Somali male population's addiction to the mild narcotic plant.  The children wash them and sell them back, earning enough to buy one or two packs of cigarettes on which they can then make a small profit selling by the stick.  "Sometimes the little money you have earned in the day is taken away by an older street boy... There are also those who want to molest the younger children," says Abdi.  A torn red tee-shirt dangles from his bony shoulders as from a hanger. His face is covered in dirt. "I only get a chance to wash on Fridays," he says.


*** ARCHIVES ***

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 23 December 2010]

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Self-employment and casual labor were more often observed in urban areas, while unpaid farm labor was the primary form observed in rural areas.  Boys as young as 14 or 15 have participated in combat and many belong to gangs who raid indiscriminately.  In 1999 UNICEF estimated that 58.4 percent of primary school-age children attended school, and that 72.5 percent of children who had started primary school were likely to reach grade 5.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 11 February 2020]

CHILDREN – The authorities were generally not committed to children's rights and welfare. The lack of resources limited the opportunity for children to attend school. Approximately 22 percent of the school-aged population attended school, according to UNICEF officials.

Children remained among the chief victims of the continuing violence. Boys as young as 14 or 15 years of age have participated in militia attacks, and many youths were members of the marauding gangs known as "morian" (parasites or maggots). This year's annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict documented grave violations against children in Somalia. The report focused violations that are being systematically committed against children in Somalia: killing or maiming of children; the recruitment or use of child soldiers; attacks against schools or hospitals; rape or other grave sexual violence against children; abduction of children; and denial of humanitarian access for children.

SOMALIA: Just another day for Hargeisa's street children

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Hargeisa, 16 June 2009

[accessed 10 March 2015]

My family lives in Burao [about 150km east of Hargeisa]," one child said. "We were so many children. One day I decided to travel to Hargeisa and never went back home."   Social workers in the city say drought and economic hardship have forced an unprecedented number of children on to the streets.   The children lack adequate shelter, healthcare, education, protection and guidance. Drug abuse is common and many are involved in activities such as pick-pocketing to cover drug costs.   "We interviewed 150 street children, scattered throughout the city, and 88 percent confessed to have experienced different abuse, including sexual abuse and harassment," Khadar Nuur, chairman of Hargeisa Child Protection Network, said.

In their struggle to survive, some of the children have committed crimes and found themselves in prison.   "We know that a number of street children were sent to prison by the security committees in Hargeisa," Kalil said. "We are worried about their situation in prison because they are detained with old people, including criminals."   Lul Hassan, who is in charge of child protection at the Somaliland National Human Rights Commission, said the children's prison at Mija Asseye would be rehabilitated soon.

According to the commission, an estimated 60 children join others on the streets monthly.   Many of the new arrivals are girls - a phenomenon that was previously uncommon. "We met about 15 female street children, who had suffered sexual abuse," Kalil said. "The number of female street children has increased from 4 to 8 percent."

Mogadishu street children await chance to shine

Mustafa Haji Abdinur, Middle East Online, Mogadishu, 2009-03-16

[accessed 20 July 2011]

In Somalia, childhood dies fast. By the time they are old enough to count money and carry a can of polish, Mogadishu's shoeshiner boys have little to look forward to.   Abdi Adan Nur can't remember a happy moment in his life. When he was born, 10 years ago, the Horn of Africa nation had already become a by-word for "failed state" and civil violence has only worsened since.   With a torn red tee-shirt dangling from his bony shoulders and no shoes of his own, Abdi leaves home every morning without eating breakfast to polish shoes in central Mogadishu.   "On a good day, I get about 40,000 shillings (1.5 dollars) and I give it to my mother so that she can prepare a decent meal," he said, fumbling a wad of grimy notes in his trouser pocket.   "I have never done anything nice in my life, let alone go to school. I can only read a few lines of the Koran," said the child, his hair red with days of accumulated dust.

THE CHILDREN ARE FACING THE WORST TIME EVER - The young boy lives with his mother and two sisters in a shelter made of plastic lining stretched over a flimsy structure of twigs, in one of the camps for the displaced where fighting in Mogadishu has regurgitated hundreds of thousands of families.

SOMALIA: Poverty Forces Children Into the Streets

Abdurrahman Warsameh, Inter Press Service News Agency IPS, Mogadishu, Jan 20, 2009

[accessed 20 July 2011]

[accessed 4 January 2017]

Hassan Maye, 13, has been fending for himself and his family in the streets of Mogadishu since he was ten. He shines shoes in the Sinai neighbourhood in the southern part of the Somali capital. On a good day, he says he earns 18,000 shillings - equivalent to roughly 50 cents.   Maye risks danger every day for this meagre income, as shooting regularly flares up around his workplace. He also has to keep an eye out for the gangs of armed freelance robbers that roam the streets of Mogadishu.   His earnings make a small contribution to the income of the household he shares with his grandparents and sister.

There are other street children who do not work but are instead engaged in begging to survive. Most of those beggars are from the more recently displaced people who have left their home villages to come to Mogadishu because of violence, famine or drought that prevent them from continuing to farm on their lands.   They are rarely able to find even low-paid work like Maye because the small cost of setting up - brushes and polish, needles and thread to repair damaged shoes - are beyond them. Maye and his mates were fortunate to be set up by a relative or neighbour.

SOMALIA: Conflict, drought force more children onto Hargeisa streets

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Hargeisa, 22 October 2008

[accessed 10 March 2015]

Shoe-shining and car-washing are the jobs of choice for most of the street boys in Hargeisa, while the girls mostly clean or sweep business premises or clean people’s homes. Most beg, Osman said.  While on the streets, many children often suffer abuse, violence and particularly sexual abuse. "Many of those… that sleep on street corners have been victims of sexual violence," Osman said. "On the street at night they are easy prey with no one to protect them."

RISKS - Many have been infected with "all sort of diseases, including HIV/AIDS and they don't even know what that is," he added.  He said many of the street children had taken to tying a sack over the lower part of their bodies when sleeping at night. "It is an attempt to protect themselves."

Nasir Ahmed, 12, survives by washing cars. On average, he takes home 40,000 Somaliland shillings (about US$6.50) per day.  "What I make from washing cars is what my mother and sisters and I eat,” he told IRIN.  Ahmed’s father died in 2007, when the responsibility of caring for the family fell on him.  “My mother used to sell vegetables in the market but she was not making enough so I told her `I will do the work. You stay at home and take care of the girls’,” he said.

Somalia children homeless on Kenya streets

Garowe Online, Nairobi Kenya, 18 Oct 2008

[accessed 21 July 2011]

Somali journalist Abdikarim Muhsin, the Garowe Online correspondent in Nairobi, says that the children often live under terrible conditions, especially during the colder months.  He spoke with 14-year old Mohamed Ahmed, who has been living in Nairobi's Somali-dominated Eastleigh quarter for the past two years.  "I survive on leftover food given to us by Somalis after we do small jobs for them," the teenager said.  Unfortunately, Mohamed is among hundreds of Somali street children who are often seen walking or sleeping on the streets, with no family or home to go to.

Street children in Mogadishu: Dodging the bullets

Yemen Times, Mogadishu, March 22, 2009

[partially accessed 21 July 2011 - access restricted]

Mohamed Ali Madey, an eight-year-old shoe shiner, came to Mogadishu in 2005 from Baidoa after his parents divorced.  Madey works mainly around the KM4 area, where violent clashes among Ethiopian armed forces, Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers and Islamist militants often take place.  Calmly sitting on the pavement cleaning shoes for customers and chatting with some of his friends, Madey says that overall he is happy with his life, but he is concerned about the insecurity plaguing Mogadishu.  “I can earn a sufficient amount of money from this shoe-cleaning work, but the situation here is volatile and if fighting starts we are paralyzed because there will be bullets flying everywhere,” he says, as he laces up a pair of shoes he has just finished polishing.

Although his clothes are filthy, Madey is a tall, handsome boy. Seemingly embarrassed by this he explains that he usually tries to bathe once a week at his aunt’s house in the Howlwadaag neighborhood, but he only gets a little food and a short time to wash each time he visits her.  Madey arrives at the street corner early every morning in an attempt to get more customers, but this is a dangerous practice because Ethiopian/TFG troops often set up roadblocks nearby. He is afraid he may be wounded in a roadside bombing or shot dead like his friend Yasin Adle Ahmed, who was killed by Ethiopian troops on Makka Al-Mukarrama Street nearby.

“My friend Hassan Muruq was killed when Ugandan troops came under attack by armed men at KM4, where Hassan had been sleeping in front of a shop. I was with him, but I crawled away and escaped as I saw my friend Hassan pouring blood and taking his final breath,” he says.  Madey adds that a third friend, Hussein Shelare, died after a soldier shot him, mistaking him for an Islamist insurgent. Witnesses confirm Shelare was unarmed and had only been walking home from work in the Waberi district, a route he took regularly.

Clutching a glue bag in his right hand, Madey says he likes to sniff it for pleasure. Told that such habits are harmful, he responds that he did not know the practice was unhealthy.  Madey also collects the remains of the khat (a mild stimulant plant chewed for pleasure) at the teashop and hawks them, along with packets of cigarettes he buys to make some additional profit. The main concern of Madey and his fellow shoe shiners are bullying and robbery at the hands of older street children armed with knives and the occasional firearm.

SOMALIA: Street children increase as food insecurity grips region

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, NAIROBI, 14 August 2008

[accessed 10 March 2015]

NAIROBI, 14 August 2008 (IRIN) - Food insecurity compounded by inflation and recent fighting between insurgents and government forces around the town of Beletweyne in central Somalia's Hiran region has led to a sharp increase in the number of street children.  "More and more children are taking to the streets; some to engage in petty trade while others are just there in search of food," a journalist based in Beletweyne, who declined to be named, told IRIN.  The journalist said children, numbering at least 100, had resorted to Beletweyne streets in recent months as access to food dwindled for many families.  Layla Maowlid, 12, is one such child: "I am on the streets daily to sell sweet potatoes due to the poor condition and hunger of my family, I have no other choice. My mother prepares this food in the house and I sell it in the market."

The Long Journey

Peter Koch, Artvoice AV, Issue v5n40, 5 October 2006

[accessed 21 July 2011]

AHMED HASSAN … In 1991, he was shot in the back and robbed by one of Mogadishu’s countless khat-chewing, gun-toting street children. “I’ll show you,” he says to me, standing up and removing his jacket. He rolls up his shirtsleeve and shows me the light brown circle of scar tissue on his bicep, where the bullet exited. It went into his back and came out his side before penetrating his arm. “They shoot first, ask questions later. But what can I do?”

IRIN humanitarian news and analysis

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, In-Depth, January 2003

[accessed 10 March 2015]

[accessed 4 January 2017]

[page 61]

THE PLIGHT OF SOMALI CHILDREN - In Hargeysa, young homeless girls sleep in among the petrol containers in the hope that the smell and the danger of the petrol will keep away potential attackers. Having to live on the streets of the large urban centers is one of the most dangerous prospects for Somali children. In some cases street children were forced to beg for gangs after being raped and beaten.

UNICEF Humanitarian Action: Somalia donor update 4 Jun 2004

United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF, 4 Jun 2004

[accessed 21 July 2011]

[accessed 4 January 2017]

[scroll down]

PROTECTION AND YOUTH PARTICIPATION - During the first quarter of the year, child protection coordination networks have been established in Bari, Nugal, Mudug, Benadir, Lower Shabelle and Hiran regions, and similar initiatives are under way in other areas.   Successful efforts include: access to education for disadvantaged children; commitment from businesspeople to provide support and care to street children; community action to protect children against prostitution and exploitative labor; and the commitment of some militia leaders to support children's attendance in school as opposed to involvement in the conflicts.

Profile of Internal Displacement : Somalia (as of 6 May, 2004) [PDF]

Norwegian Refugee Council/Global IDP Project, Geneva Switzerland, 6 May 2004$file/Somalia+-May+2004.pdf

[accessed 21 July 2011]

[accessed 4 January 2017]

 [page 148] In the ICRC-supported hospital south of Mogadishu, as many as 90% of all patients are gunshot-wounded civilians most of whom are IDPs and street children

Profile of Internal Displacement : Somalia (as of 20 June, 2003) [PDF]

Norwegian Refugee Council/Global IDP Project, Geneva Switzerland, 20 June 2003

[accessed 21 July 2011]

[page 53] DISPLACED CHILDREN LACK PROTECTION - Displaced children often from southern minority groups are forced to seek ‘protection’ by joining urban gangs … Displaced children are often exploited and have jobs dangerous to their health … Children displaced from minority groups suffer from deprivation and abuse … Displaced children are sexually abused … Displaced children in single-headed families often end up on the streets and are often drawn into drug-dependency

Decision by USA leaves 3 000 children homeless in Somalia

Giselle Guedes, Pravda Ru, 05 February 2004

[accessed 21 July 2011]

Several orphanages will be forced to close their doors in the coming days due to a lack of financing, resulting in at least three thousand children being abandoned in the streets. The reason: the entity which financed these orphanages, the aid agency Al-Haramayn, from Saudi Arabia, has been banned from working in Somalia.

Horn of Africa Voluntary Youth Committee (HAVOYOCO)

Novib Civil Society Organisations - Profiles

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 21 July 2011]

[scroll down]

STREET CHILDREN REHABILITATION PROJECT - Street Children Rehabilitation Center was established in 1994 in response to an increasing need for child protection in Hargeisa. The project provides food, shelter, literacy classes, counseling, family tracing and family reunification. Approximately 45-50 children are assisted through the center each year.

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