The number of street children in Ethiopia is on the rise since the end of the last century. Modernization is bringing not only hope for the poor, but it also brings despair for the young ones. Children are leaving homes and reject education in search of a job, any job that will, perhaps, bring a better tomorrow. Most of them don’t succeed. They stay at the street, working for 1 to 2 Euros per day, sniff glue not to feel as hungry and so that they can drift away to a place better than the streets of Addis. The government is still mute to this increasing problem, leaving children to be more isolated and therefore, more vulnerable.
Abeyhih, 20, poses in front of his workplace, the street.
He had a train accident six years ago when he lost both arms. He climbed up so that he didn’t have to pay for the ticket and fell down. He earns about 300 Birr per day (about 9 Euro) begging in the centre of Addis Ababa. Abeyhih dreams of working in a shop.
He came from the south part of the country one year ago, says his parents are still there.
“We all sleep at the station, it is safer that way”, he says, explaining that there are about 15 boys in the evening at the bus station.
“The only thing is, I am often hungry and I get cold at night sometimes, but we take care of one another.”
Abinet earns about 50 Birr (1.5 Euro) per day. He dreams of going back to school and becoming a doctor one day.
“My baby is healthy… just a rash once in a while, but I fix it with meds we get.”
She says she doesn’t have parents, so she decided to leave her hometown alone and come to Addis. She gets the food from the hotels, often it is “injera” (a bread like a pancake, made of tef ), that she leaves to dry in the sun.
“I need more money now, because of the baby, better food and hygiene. I don’t have that.”
She dreams of becoming a saleswoman.
“I get scared sometimes because I am alone. Boys do try to have us for one or more nights, so I try to hide well. But most of the time I am just very cold.”
Tamasken, 15 (left) and Samuel, 14 (right) came to Addis Ababa together only two months ago. They will try to find a job, as their parents can’t afford to take care of them.
They collect plastic and sell them to the factories for 3 Birr per kilo. ( about 0.09 Euro )
“We sleep together, it is warmer like that.” , boys say.
Micky came from Mekele to Addis two months ago. He had a big fight with his parents and they don’t know he is here. He told me he came by car, someone helped him, but he can’t tell me who that is, only that he is an older boy, in his twenties.
Micky wants to stay in Addis. He collects plastic now and earns about 40 Birr per day (1.2 Euro ).
“I only need to pay for the food and I don’t eat much.”
Micky dreams of going back to school.
Hayelum, 20, was a street child once. He came from Bahir Dar to Addis eleven years ago, as his mother was very poor and couldn’t take care of him. He decided to go to the shelter and now he is back in high school and helping the other street children to go back to school.
The boys came from the south part of Ethiopia about three months ago, hoping to find a job. Their parents don’t know where they are. They call themselves “the shoe boys”, earning about 50 Birr per day each ( 1.5 Euro ). Police are their only problem, as “they make us not sleep where we want to”.
They get the food from the hotels, the leftover food.
They wouldn’t like to go back to school, they only want a job.