Ho Chi Minh City has around 1,500 street children and 200 of them fall prey to sexual abuse each year, the city Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs said at a recent conference.
But Le Quang Nguyen of the NGO Save the Children in Vietnam said the actual number is much higher since many cases are not reported.
"Some 70-80 percent of abused street children suffer from psychological disorders," he said.
"They often suffer from depression and behavior and emotional disorders."
Le Ngoc Lam, chairman of the Research Center for Management and Sustainable Development, reported about an increasing number of female street children falling victim to sexual abuse, with 16 percent of them being between 14 and 17 years old.
Luong Thi Thuan, chairwoman of the city's Children Sponsoring Association, said most street children are aged eight to 16, uneducated, and abandoned by their families.
"The street children are vulnerable to abuse and forced into crimes like robbery," she said.
Nguyen Kim Thien, manager of the Hoa Hong Nho Shelter in District 7, said most of the 20 abused children at the facility suffer serious psychological problems despite being treated.
Many experts said it is difficult to monitor the number of street children because most of them do not have ID cards.
Thuan said her agency had asked the police to issue them ID cards, but the police refused saying the kids have to present a household registration along with the application.
"Many of them were abandoned when they were young. The government should have a policy to issue ID cards to them."
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