Health Crises, Social Support, and Caregiving Practices among Street Children in Bangladesh

An estimated 1–3 million children live on the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh relying on each other for survival in an environment characterized by illness, violence, and poverty.

To understand street children's caregiving practices, this paper draws in part from the informal caregiving and social support literature. The qualitative project purposively selected 75 street children and asked three primary questions: 1) What is the nature of crisis children encounter on the street? 2) What are the ranges of informal caregiving practices? 3) What social network characteristics facilitate or complicate caregiving?

Findings suggest that street children encounter unprecedented dangers and experience frequent accidental injuries and repeated episodes of sickness. They rely mostly on social network members for a range of supports. Network members, primarily peers, help devise a treatment plan, accompany them to treatment centres, buy medicine and nurse sick youth.

Network members bear most treatment, food and other expenses and usually do not expect immediate repayment. Street children offer support to close and weak network ties, however, support is more intense for friends. 

As such, authors assert that interventions targeted towards street children would be most successful if they were to build on children's coping strategies – capitalizing on youths' capabilities and those of their peers – and avoiding a ‘victim discourse,’ which can label children as helpless recipients of aid.

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Children and Youth Services Review