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Egypt homeless, street children hit hard by pandemic scourge

Wandering Cairo’s bustling streets, Zeinab was struggling to survive by selling tissues when the coronavirus left her even more vulnerable, along with thousands of other homeless people and street children.

The only good news was that, amid the pandemic fears, physical violence against the destitute has declined, Zeinab told AFP at a mobile shelter for the poor in Abbassiya, a working-class district.

“People attack us less because they are afraid,” she said.

But with fewer people in the streets, “we have less work and less money,” added the young woman, while keeping an eye on her one-year-old son, Abdallah.

Almost one third of Egypt’s population of 100 million live in poverty.

Young people and children who roam the streets are among the poorest and are regularly exposed to verbal, physical and sexual violence and exploitation.

The novel coronavirus, which has killed nearly 4,000 people and infected around 83,000 more in Egypt, has compounded their vulnerability, as the country battles an economic downturn and access to support is reduced due to lockdown measures.

“They are isolated, the population at large avoids them… and their meagre income has been hit hard,” said Youssef Bastawrous, manager of the French civil society group Samusocial International, which works with street children in Egypt.

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