Teenagers in Ethiopia are being driven to drug and alcohol abuse because of a lack of opportunities in the country, the ministry of labour and social affairs has said.
Dr Bulti Gutema, who heads the children, youth and family welfare department at the ministry, said many young people had little or no opportunities in life.
He was speaking at a UNICEF-sponsored Ethiopian Teenagers' Forum in the capital Addis Ababa last week which focused on the plight of street children.
An estimated 60,000 children live on the streets of the capital alone – many of them forced to do so because their parents have died from HIV/AIDS.
“The problems of Ethiopian youth are many, complex and inter-related,” Dr Bulti told delegates. “Because of their limited access to training and educational opportunities and the acute shortage of recreation and sport centres, they fall victims to drug and alcohol abuse, delinquency and criminal activities."
“Employment opportunities for this age group are hard to come by," he noted. "Although the youth face many and diverse problems, they are the pillar for a country's economic development.”
Abdelmajid Tibouti from UNICEF said the current drought was making it even harder for children.
"Mothers and children are particularly vulnerable in such circumstances,” he said. “Family bonds can disintegrate and children may end up living on the streets.”
The children at the conference drew up a 10-point action plan to tackle the plight of street children. They urged the government and society to help deal with poverty and also called on celebrities to act as role models in promoting the plight of young people.
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