Street Kids In Wartorn Angola Sell Sex And Drugs To Survive FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 3 Jun 1999 22:00:23 -0700 (PDT)


http://dailynews.yahoo.com/headlines/ap/international/story.html?s=v/ap/19990530
/wl/angola_street_kids_2.html
FWD  Yahoo! News - AP Headlines - Sunday May 30, 1999

     ANGOLAN CHILDREN ARE VICTIMS OF WAR

     By BARRY HATTON - Associated Press Writer

LUANDA, Angola (AP) -- The evening rush-hour traffic lurches
along a busy street in Angola's capital when suddenly a boy pops
his head out of a hole in the road and takes a look around.

Cars swerve away as he and a few others nimbly wriggle out of
the sewers where they live to begin scavenging for dinner in
Luanda's garbage cans. The ragged, barefoot boys scuffle playfully
on their way to the trash outside grimy apartment blocks.

More than a dozen boys live underground at Antonio Barroso
Street, just a handful of the estimated 5,000 children in the city
left homeless by the Angola's civil war.

A 12-year-old who says his name is Fender has lived underground
for three years. He says he enjoys the freedom of his life on the
streets but is reluctant to give details of what he does all day.

``We go out for walks around town seeing what we can find to
eat,'' he said.

Although Luanda is heavily protected by the army and removed
from battles raging in the countryside between government troops
and UNITA rebels, the children are still victims of the fighting.

Aid workers say parents who see the conflict headed their way
send their children on the last flights to the rundown coastal
capital in hopes of saving them.

But the city of several million people is often ``the end of the
line'' for the children, aid workers say. Unless they can find
family or are picked up by social institutions, they must fend for
themselves in a city already overburdened by tens of thousands of
people displaced by the war.

The children grow up in filthy, garbage-strewn streets rarely
visited by refuse trucks. They spend their time looking for scraps
to eat or hustling for change. Fun is hanging onto the back of a
truck for a hair-raising ride along the city's potholed roads.

Public reaction to the homeless children ranges from complaints
that they are delinquents to the charitable exchange of food for
small chores.

Elena, 14, and Mangota, 15, are prostitutes who work on a murky
side street. Elena looks younger than she claims. Both orphaned,
the miniskirted girls say they make $35 a night that helps feed the
numerous brothers, sisters and cousins with whom they share a hut.

``We usually have three or four clients a night,'' Elena said.

They have a modest ambition: to save enough money to invest in
beer to sell at the side of road, competing with dozens of other
beer vendors throughout the city.

In the Cassenda neighborhood near the airport, 17-year-old
Belita cradles her 1-year-old baby, Carlos, outside their home -
the rusted shell of a wrecked car that was left to decay.

The shell, where Carlos was born, is covered with strips of
cardboard and cloth. Inside there is a mattress and blankets. There
are no toys, no books, no television.

Aninha, 16, Belita's friend who shares the car, says all the
kids help raise Carlos.

``He's a good boy. He doesn't keep us awake at night,'' she
said.

An Irish non-governmental organization called GOAL is trying to
help the street children, although it is overwhelmed by a surge of
new arrivals since the civil war in the southwest African nation,
which began in 1975, resumed in December after a four-year pause.

GOAL has set up makeshift classrooms around the city. On weekday
evenings, four volunteer teachers give 90-minute classes in reading
and writing.

In a dirty car lot wedged between two 12-story apartment
buildings, teacher Paulo Domingos props a blackboard against the
skeleton of a long-abandoned car and starts his class under the dim
streetlights.

Twelve young boys sit on old tires or rusting engine blocks, or
lean against cars, as they recite the alphabet within view of an
old Volkswagen van, picked clean of anything removable, which is
their home.

GOAL also tries to reunite family members, but aid workers say
the job is getting more difficult because of the flood of new
arrivals.

END FORWARD

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