Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

CICAD Leads Street Youth to a Brighter Future

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

CICAD Leads Street Youth to a Brighter Future

Article excerpt

The streets of the Hemisphere are home to hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of children, some as young as five and six years old. In Latin America and the Caribbean, they typically earn a living by washing car windshields, shining shoes, "protecting" parked cars, selling matches, begging or petty thievery. Growing numbers of sexually exploited youth of both sexes work as prostitutes, with all the attendant dangers of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, early pregnancy, and backroom abortions. Very young girls run the risk of bearing drug-addicted babies or children with birth defects. Thrown into a hostile environment many, if not most, of these children use drugs and sniff glue, in an effort to escape their daily reality of poverty, hunger and despair.

In 1981, eighty percent of street youth in Sao Paulo had used inhalants, according to Dr. Carlini, a noted researcher in Brazil. Street kids also work for adult drug dealers as lookouts or small distributors, and may receive part of their payment in the form of marijuana, coca paste or inhalants. Some street children return to their homes at night, their earnings contributing to the family economy. Too many, however, have been forced from their homes by parental abuse or drunkenness, and sleep in parks, sewers or doorways. Street children have little access to education or health care; they live on the outer margins of society in countries burdened by debt, heavy unemployment and disease.

The problem of street children must be confronted not only to help the children already trapped but to prevent others from entering the cycle of poverty and drug abuse. Many institutions around the globe are trying to care for street children in Latin America, but they generally operate on a shoe-string budget and rely on volunteers who rarely have the time to expand their efforts beyond today's needs and look at the longer term solutions.

The Inter American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the Organization of American States, has initiated programs to combat the problem of youth drug addiction from its roots. CICAD's first goal is to promote inter-American cooperation to attack the complex transnational chain of drug production and use. …

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