At least one in every 100 children in the country aged zero to 17 years old is a potential street child, a recent study conducted by the Social Weather Stations showed.
“There are at least 369,242 potential children in street situation (CiSS) in the country in 2015, but the actual figure could be higher,” said Geert Van der Linden, chairman of the Iloilo-based non-profit organization LifeBank Microfinance Foundation that supported the study.
CiSS is a term used by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in lieu of “street children” or other earlier labels used for these children.
According to SWS vice president Linda Guerrero, the study—the first after almost two decades—was based on two government databases, namely the Labor Force Survey (LFS) and the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES).
Based on four assumptions—that CiSS are more likely from poor households, that they are mostly in urban areas, that they are mostly in cities, and that they are more likely to be out of school—SWS found the “minimum estimate” for the total potential CiSS to be at 369,242.
The number represents 0.9 percent of children aged 0 to 17 in the entire country in 2015.
Prior to the SWS study, the latest available data was in 2002, which reported 246,011 CiSS across the country.
“The CiSS is a vulnerable group that needs to be statistically visible,” Guerrero said.
“If you don't know the scale of the problem, then you would not know if you are making progress in your interventions,” Van der Linden said.
Child advocate Catherine Scerri of Bahay Tuluyan underscored how the two government databases can lead to a big percentage of CiSS missing in the statistics.
“There will be a missing population because the FIES, for example, looks at households, but most poor families do not have households. If we look at CiSS presence only in cities, we miss out on those who are from the provinces who go to cities to earn a living. A lot of street children are also in schools but are also in the streets,” she said.
The observations were validated in two separate surveys conducted by SWS in Iloilo City and Cagayan de Oro City, with 1,000 interviewees each.
In Iloilo, it was found that 93 percent of street children are in school, and 78 percent have homes. At least 46 percent of the respondents said they earn money for themselves, and 63 percent said they started working before they were 10 years old.
The findings were similar in Cagayan de Oro City, with 83 percent in schools, 78 percent with homes, and 66 percent started working before they were 10 years old.
In Iloilo City, 65 percent of the respondents said they have experienced some form of physical violence. The figure is lower in Cagayan de Oro City at 46 percent. However, majority of street kids in both cities said they experience physical violence at home in the hands of a family member, and they did no ask for help from anyone.
Two percent of the respondents from both cities said they experience sexual violence, and a third of them said they experienced it at home from a family member.
Council for the Welfare of Children policy head Consolacion Salcedo said the findings of the survey will be useful in crafting programs to help address the problem of CiSS.
“This study will lead to evidence-based policy and plans programming both by the government and civil society,” Salcedo said.