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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 December, 2004, 02:40 GMT
Child glue sniffing rises in Morocco
Buy Pascale Harter
BBC News, Rabat

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A non-governmental organisation in Morocco says substance abuse among children has reached alarming levels.

The Baiti association says 98% of children living on the streets in Morocco are now addicted to sniffing glue and the number is growing.

They shine shoes, beg from passers-by or even sell their bodies in return for the $3 they need to buy a tube of glue.

According to a government survey, more than 5,000 children are living on the streets of Casablanca alone.

Almost all of them are glue addicts.

As poverty and unemployment continue to rise in Morocco, more parents are unable to provide for their children, and more children end up living on the streets.

Crisis worsens

Cheap and easy to get, the children use glue to numb the feelings of cold, hunger and rejection.

A United Nations report says glue sniffing is making street children prone to tuberculosis, and they are contracting sexually transmitted diseases as they fall back on prostitution to pay for their habit.

Najat M'jid, president of Baiti, Morocco's first and only association for the protection of street children, says the situation is urgent as some street children sniff between five and 20 tubes per day.

"We have to work with the street children very, very soon because when they become dependent on glue it's very difficult to build with them a life project," Mr M'jid says.

"The impact of the glue on the brain really is a step to marginalisation and delinquency," he says.

Baiti is using sport to teach street children about the effects of glue on their lungs, and offers psychiatric counselling.

But the association is overstretched and cannot compensate for the lack of state-run social services.

Najat M'jid believes if more is not done soon, Morocco is heading for a street children crisis on the scale of Brazil.

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