WMA urges more action to tackle problem of street children


(26.11.2014) To mark UNESCO’s ‘Street Children Day’ today (November 26), the World Medical Association has highlighted the rights of children and in particular their rights to health. The WMA has called on governments to do more to tackle the causes of what has become a worsening global health problem. It has also emphasised the vital roles of national medical associations and physicians in recognising, caring for and integrating these children back into society.

WMA President Dr. Xavier Deau said: ‘This is a problem that has persisted for decades, but is sadly a scandal that is getting worse with tragic consequences. The United Nations estimates there could be around 150 million street children throughout the world. This is an unacceptable situation and governments have to do much more to deal with it.  

‘This year is the 25th anniversary of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child which sets out the wider rights of all children and young people. The WMA stated in its Ottawa Declaration in 1998 children “cannot exist without health”. Today we want to underline the importance of ensuring this right to health for all children. We want to see much more done to stop the abuse and neglect of street children. While we support all the work that is being done to deal with this problem, we believe governments have a duty to do more. Support of street children and those who care for their health and welfare is a requirement to reduce the numbers of children in this intolerable situation.

‘We also urge doctors, who are often the first point of contact for these children, to use their trusted positions and skills to reintegrate these children back into society. National medical associations have an important role to play in educating their members about what they can do to help’.

The WMA’s annual Assembly in Durban last month agreed to work on new proposals for assisting street children around the world. A draft document will be considered at the Association’s next Council meeting in Oslo, Norway next April.