Wednesday, February 15

... you may not see us because we will die ...

The BBC has a photo essay called Underground Children about the street children of Addis Ababa. The text accompanying the above picture
Blink and you will miss the underground children in Ethiopia's capital city.

They live in tunnels, sewers and drainage holes, hidden beneath Addis Ababa's teeming streets.

They move from one makeshift shelter to the next, chased away by police or the rivers of water and refuse that flow when the rains come.

......... Links in the Chain of Suffering ..........
Several key informants also commented on the emergence of a new type of commercial sex around Awtobus Tera (the main bus terminal in Merkato); female street children were highly involved in this sex work.

According to kebele guides and sex worker informants, this group was exposed repeatedly to sexually transmitted infections and attended clinics adjacent to the area for treatment. A few street children were interviewed about their life and their health conditions.

Recurring comments from this group of children were summed up in the words of one child “today you have interviewed us but after a month or so you may not see us because we will die of different reasons — exposure to extreme cold weather or disease”.
the above is from Mapping and Census of Female Sex Workers in Addis Ababa (PDF). How did these children end up where they are? Let us try to trace their path. Deepening poverty shatters families in Ethiopia
Ethiopia has the world's largest population of orphaned children, with 4.6 million having lost parents to AIDS and other diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria, according to a 2004 study by the United Nations and Ethiopia's labor and social affairs ministry.

Many children, whether orphaned or driven from their families by poverty, drift toward the country's urban centers in search of work or handouts from strangers.

More than a half-million homeless children roam the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital.

Many sleep in trash-strewn alleys or abandoned buildings, often vulnerable to sexual assaults and other forms of exploitation. Children as young as 4, their noses runny, their clothes begrimed and tattered, weave amid the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the city's main boulevards, selling packets of paper napkins for one birr apiece, about 12 cents.
Opposition parties claim that much of Ethiopia's poverty is exacerbated by government ownership of the land, a vestige of the country's communist era. Opposition groups are pushing for privatization to make it easier for farmers to form cooperatives or acquire enough land to make farms profitable.

Privatizing land is a bad idea, says Zenawi, who predicts that most struggling farmers would sell their farms and flock to the cities, creating even more instability. To ensure a brighter economic future for the country's children, Zenawi says, Ethiopia needs more industry, not land reform.
No country that denies private property rights has experienced growth sufficient to eradicate poverty or given the personal security to become democratic. Zenawi knows this very well but he has other priorities such as eternal power. Where is the money for industrialization going to come from anyway?

Ethiopians get poorer every year while beyond remittances from Ethiopians abroad and foreign aid little flows in. Ethiopia is considered one of the most corrupt and poorly governed countries on earth with one of the lowest rates of per capita foreign direct investment on earth as well.

The agricultural sector crippled by government policy or dreams of massive aid from abroad won't do it. The party / government / crony businesses own the whole economy and all the land anyway so the principle economic issue becomes how can more money be squeezed from the poorest people on earth, how can more aid money be brought into siphon off and take care of the poorest people on earth and how fast it can all the money be transported right back abroad to numbered accounts.

20,000 children sold
Poverty-stricken Ethiopians sell thousands of their children for as little as $1.20 (about R8) each to traffickers who put them to work as prostitutes, domestic labour, weavers or professional beggars, said the International Organisation for Migration on Wednesday.

Families sell as many as 20 000 children, some as young as 10, every year.
Thousands of Ethiopian children sold by parents
There are an estimated 4,6-million orphans in Ethiopia, about 13% of all the country's children. About 200 000 children are believed to live on the streets of the capital, Addis Ababa.

"While this crisis of vulnerable children is depriving children of their rights to human development, it is also proving to be a growing burden on already impoverished communities," said Bjorn Ljungqvist, head of the UN Children's Fund in Ethiopia.

A legal expert with the IOM's counter-trafficking unit in Addis Ababa, Alem Brook, said Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of internal trafficking of children in the world.
Alem said the majority of boys and girls end up as domestic labourers, commercial sex workers, weavers or professional beggars.

The IOM warned that thousands of Ethiopian women are also trafficked abroad. At least 10 000 have been sent to the Gulf States to work as prostitutes, the agency said.

"There are increasing numbers of young women being recruited from here for sexual purposes," Alem said.
Ethiopian parents who do this sort of thing are not more likely to do so than the parents of any other children on earth. All have, however, been put in the grips of one of the very worst governments on earth.

All such suffering has a return address of sorts, it is not the human condition nor the fate of Ethiopians. Every lesson of the past centuries and decades of human advancement is being purposefully ignored so that the politburo can rule forever.

They have made a choice between human suffering and their own security in power. Every factor that would empower Ethiopians economically or politically is seen as a threat. Ethiopia's rulers know exactly how so many others escaped lives that were 'poor, nasty, brutish and short' but have made a clear choice here.

God and fate have not betrayed Ethiopians but her rulers have. As Rural Ethiopians Struggle, Child Labor Can Mean Survival
Ethiopia has one of the highest rates of child labor in the world, according to the United Nations' International Labor Organization and the African Network for the Prevention of and Protection Against Child Abuse and Neglect. Nine million children ages 5 to 17 are employed, 90 percent of them in the agricultural sector, the agencies reported.
"The actual style of agriculture hasn't changed in 2,000 years, and that affects everything," said Stuart William, a Kenyan who is working on a joint environmental and development project with the United Nations and the Ethiopian Agriculture Ministry. "When the crops fail because the land is overused, then the farmers sell off the animals. The family is then totally stripped of their assets. The farmer loses out in every way. The only thing left is to send the child to work for someone else."
This article does not mention the land issue. Even National Geographic, that picturesque staple of Rousseau-like non-judgement and 'romance with the primitive' ascribes Ethiopia's suffering to land policy. This article would have us believe it just is like the climate.

Negotiating boundaries: Bar girls and sex work in Nazareth, Ethiopia (PDF)
Young people engaging in prostitution as part of their economic survival strategies is perhaps most associated with sex tourism in East Asia, Thailand in particular. A number of studies have discussed the processes at work here and implications of engaging in commercial sex for the children involved.

Child prostitution in sub-Saharan Africa has a much lower profile and subsequently received much less attention in academic research. Despite this, young people are engaging in prostitution. Little is known about the nature and extent of this in Ethiopia although many teenage girls are drawn into commercial sex work through

A recent survey of 650 sex workers revealed that this is a substantial problem with more than 40% stating they became involved in prostitution below the age of 18.
This article is a fascinating take on the lives of those children whose path in life is hijacked by factors beyond their control and who grow to maturity with a burden of accumulated, accelerating suffering as a national tradition defined by their government.

The suffering of Ethiopians serves to subsitute the constituency of Western aid donors for Ethiopian approval to rule and is also a weapon against every man, woman and child who even dreams of challenging the status quo.

A system that so dehumanizes millions in exchange for the prerogatives of a very few permanent revolutionary feudal aristocrats can only be described as evil because the necessary conditions at each step where a matter of government policy. Consider the word evil to be extreme in this regard?

What else can you call what two generations of dictatorship have done to Ethiopia just as she was emerging into a future that held so much promise? The reader should wonder whose life was ruined today by absurd Marxist-Leninist policies and tribalism. A young girl who might be a good mother or one day cure a disease. Who was hungry today? A young boy who could be a good father but whose frail body never had the basic nutrients necessary for development.

Who will die or never be born because of tribal cleansing or a simply treatable disease or wretched poverty rooted in corruption? It could be a carpenter, a daughter, a farmer, a herder, an artist, a son ... millions of human beings. There is nothing Ethiopians can't achieve in creating a successful society for themselves if they are given a chance that they are now denied.

Only their own unelected and undemocratic government has crippled their age old struggle to join the freedom and progress of the rest of humanity. Ethiopians can easily do what billions of others have already done to escape poverty, Biblical destitution and oppression. If they are only given a chance.

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