Ground down by rural poverty and domestic violence, many Nepalese children run away to the capital in search of a better life. Some are lured by often false promises of high-paying jobs in tourism. The children are frequently referred to as khate, a derogatory term referring to scrap plastic collectors. There are estimated to be around 1500 street children in Kathmandu, predominantly boys, and the problem seems to be getting worse.

The conditions street children endure are arguably more debilitating than rural poverty. Homeless, they sleep in doorways, pati (open shelters) or unfinished buildings. Weakened and malnourished by a poor diet and contaminated water, few are without disease. Many sniff glue or become addicted to harder drugs. They’re regularly beaten by the police, and vulnerable to sexual violence and abuse (including from tourists).

Although it can be hard to say no when street children ask for money or food, in the long term your alms will do far better going to a charity than the beggars themselves. For more information, contact Child Workers in Nepal (t 01 428 2255, w cwin.org.np), Just-One (w just-one.org) or Voice of Children (t 01 421 5426, w voiceofchildren.org.np).

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Nepal features

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