Foreign Policy Blogs

An Escape From The Streets…Children High on Glue

Can one truly imagine the feeling of hunger, when they have not felt the desperation and pain that it causes a child. The prolonged agony of constant hunger drives children into desperate circumstances, and it drives many to get high in order to forget the hunger that rages in their young bellies.

In Nepal extreme poverty is driving children from their homes and onto the streets, many are children from rural areas, who left for Kathmandu for the promise of work. Sadly the children find themselves on the streets, hungry and desperate, for which they have begun to turn to sniffing solvents, such as glue for escape. "You know, this helps us to get rid of our hunger", said 14-year-old Rajen Subba, who fled his home in Jhapa district in southeast Nepal due to grinding poverty and started to work as a rag picker (street children sniff glue to beat hunger pangs).

An Escape From The Streets...Children High on Glue

Street Children in Thailand Sniffing Glue

However the street children in Nepal are not alone in their suffering, or their addictions to sniffing glue to escape from the dark reality that is their daily lives. Street Children around the world haven falling into this world of glue sniffing, to escape the streets, if only for a moment. Russia, Kenya, Pakistan, Ukraine, Morocco, Brazil, Thailand, Romania…the list goes on and on. The abuse of glue sniffing is a substantial, and growing problem in Asia, and around the world.

Furthermore the problem that was once seen as a American phenomenon , and now many claim is an Asian phenomenon is truly a global problem, as the Advocacy Project in Kenya estimates that some “60,000 children live on the streets of Nairobi, and almost all are addicted to some sort of inhalant” (Glue Sniffing Ruins young Lives in Nairobi).  In the Pakistani city of Karachi alone there are an estimated 14,000 street children, an estimated 90% of which are sniffing sniffing glue or another solvent, according to Aksa Zainab, a social worker working with street children at a drop-in center run by the Azad Foundation in cooperation with UNICEF (Pakistan street kids plagued by glue sniffing).  It is estimated that 98% of street children in Morocco also participated in glue sniffing, thus the high percentages of street children sniffing glue, appear equally high globally (Child glue sniffing rises in Morocco).

The effects of repeated glue sniffing include; suffocation, long term mental/brain damage, fatigue, loss of weight, dehydration, exhaustion, liver damage, kidney damage, as well as blood and bone morrow damage, and death.  Abuse and intoxication, can also lead to anger anger violence, which can often lead to increased crime.Children turn to get high on glue to forget not only hunger, but the sexual predators they have been forced to face. Glue sniffing takes children from the the cold, hunger, desperation, loneliness, and violence of the streets. However glue sniffing sadly takes the children's lives and minds, and it is for that reason that more efforts into the awareness and prevention of solvent abuse must be increased globally.  One step forward is to restrict the age of purchase on solvents, to limit the number of children purchasing them.  However restricting the purchase of solvents is will not be a main deterrent, and thus awareness and outreach problems for street children must be put in to place, and increased.  Working to elevate the root causes, such as rural  poverty and abuse, of children turning towards the street is also a must to end this growing cycle of abuse.

An Escape From The Streets...Children High on Glue

“Sergey Kushnir, 14, holding a plastic bag filled with glue for sniffing, screams in the sewer where he lives on the outskirts of Odessa, Ukraine, on Tues., June 6, 2006. According to the Ukrainian NGO “The Way Home,” there are more than 3,000 homeless children living on the streets of Odessa. Almost all street children use drugs.”
(Street Kids in Odessa)

Links and other articles of Interest:
Fact Sheet on Glue Sniffing Among Street Children in Nepal
Street Kids in Odessa
Pakistan street kids plagued by glue sniffing
Nepal: street children sniff glue to beat hunger pangs
Street Children In Morocco: An Analysis of the Situation

The Street Kids of St.Petersburg
Glue Sniffing Among Street Children In the Kathmandu Valley
Pakistan street kids plagued by glue sniffing
For Kenyan street kids, glue sniffing is a way of life



Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict