Bangladesh: help for street children at risk during the pandemic

In Dhaka, the overcrowded capital of Bangladesh, an estimated 600,000 children were living on the streets, relying on odd jobs to survive, when the coronavirus pandemic struck. For the past two months, CSI has been working with project partner William Samaddar from Engage Bangladesh to provide temporary shelter for some of these homeless children and protect them from danger on the streets.

Poverty in Bangladesh has worsened as a result of the lockdown imposed to combat the spread of Covid-19, and children are among those suffering the most. Without any source of income, streetchildren are reduced to begging. The risk is high that many will drift into organized crime or become victims of human trafficking.

Among many other projects, Engage Bangladesh runs a shelter for disadvantaged women in Dhaka. At the height of the pandemic, it decided to open its doors to 70 homeless children and to offer a cooked meal daily to 100 children for two months. CSI was glad to support this venture, providing funds for bedding, meals and hygiene articles as well as to employ extra staff, including a cook and people to look after the children.

The temporary project began at the beginning of August and runs until the end of September. Some children have already gone back to their previous way of life but are happy to return to the shelter from time to time knowing that they will be safe there.

Transformed lives

In the course of a few weeks, a huge transformation has taken place in some of the children, including Boishakhi. The child of a single mother, she was living on the streets with only a plastic sheet for protection against the rain. Boishakhi’s mother scratches out a living collecting bottles and plastic from waste bins and selling it. Boishakhi doesn’t go to school; instead, she helps her mother or washes dishes at a street restaurant.

Boishakhi arrived at the shelter on August 2 and was cleaned up and given a new dress to wear. “A big change took place in her appearance and her health in the space of just three weeks,” reported Samaddar proudly.

Roton is another of the streetchildren to have benefited. His mother is a domestic helper working in a private home. Roton is not allowed to go with her to her workplace and spends all day with friends in the slums.

CSI is grateful for the emergency assistance provided by our local partner Engage Bangladesh to improve the situation of street children in Dhaka.