The sewer kids of Romania
Bucharest, Romania. Railway North Station. A sewer entrance serves as the home to a population of 50 or 60 lost souls, orphans result of the brutal regime of Romanian Dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu. Though killed in December 1989, we can still see how people is struggling to move on after his dictatorship.
A report of the Council of Europe of year 2000 estimated that there were approximately 1,000 street children in Bucharest alone. The prevalence of street children has lent to a burgeoning sex tourism business in Romania, though efforts have been made to decrease the number of street children.
All over Romania hundreds of children live in the tunnels of the cities. In the sewers is where they have built their “bedrooms”, stacking mattresses between the garbage (they prefer not to clear the rubbish because the rusting ladder rungs are dangerous enough without extra weight, and the rubbish would only wash back in next time it rains).
Many of those original sewer-dwellers, now adults, are still there with children of their own, fighting for space among the water pipes with orphans like Daniel. The pipes, a legacy of the Communist regime, were designed to supply blocks of flats from centrally-located heating plants as a model of Communist efficiency. In practice, they shed most of their heat underground, providing warmth in the sewers all year round.
From the article “Born in the sewers”, by Michael Leidig (read the whole article here).
The Romanian government knows about the problem of these children sex abuse, but it says the situation is worse in other countries.
They are taken in a car and sold like an animal, and used for prostitution in different houses.Marian Zaharia, charity worker.
They try to avoid their suffering by glue-sniffing, so you will be able to identify them easily in parks and stations because they all go with their small plastic bags in the hand, asking for some money to give to their patron, in a try to get some food to eat.
There are several non-profit organizations trying to deal with this problem, but there is still a lot to do. A very known one is Pa-ra-da, mainly after the film based in real facts named the same as the NGO (you can find some information about the movie here), telling the story of Romania in 1992, three years after the fall of Ceaucescu dictatorship. A French-Algerian clown, Miloud Oukili (in the real life still working for this organization), arrives to Bucharest. Here he finds a terrible reality: hundreds of children from six to sixteen years old live in the tunnels of the city, in the sewers, surviving thanks to robes and prostitution. They are children who escaped from orphanages or from their familiar situations. Miloud has a dream: to win the indifference they cause in everyone. He will work hardly to get their confidence and transforming them into street artists known around the world.
If you are interested in the topic you can see also a free streaming documentary that follows five homeless children in Romania, where the collapse of communism has led to a life on the street for 20,000 children with the title “Children underground” by clicking here.
This is not only happening in Romania, there are more countries in the world where children are living in the streets without anybody taking care of the situation. You can read the blog “World street children news” to get deeper in the topic (click here) and see the same reality in different contexts.