This is an important question to answer in order that governments are able to devote the resources needed to address street children’s needs. A commonly quoted figure is 100 million street children worldwide, however given that this estimate is from 1989, it is considerably outdated. The true numbers are unknown.
Why don’t we know how many street children there are? Estimated and counting street children are other hidden populations is not easy.
Street children are a dynamic and mobile population, which requires specific methodologies other than standard household surveys or census.
Estimates or counts that are done at a fixed point in time can be misleading depending on when the counts takes place – numbers of children in the street can fluctuate either with seasonal change or if the government removes street children ahead of big events international sporting events or global meetings or celebrations.
They are often invisible – while researchers can take a snapshot of the children currently on the streets, they won’t capture the children who are indoors at that particular day or moment.
Some groups of children can be less visible on the streets, for example girls, or children with disabilities
Street children experience high levels of stigma and often are suspicious of attempts to count them, fearing negative consequences as a result of being counted and preferring to remain below the radar.
Despite these challenges, it is crucial to establish reliable numbers of street-connected children and the realities of their lives. No child should ever be harmed by those who have the duty to protect them.