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As we briefly covered in disability in street children, disability is often connected to poverty (1). It is estimated that up to 30% of street children are living with disability (2). This makes disability very common among those living on the street. Many street children also experience severe poverty. Therefore, there is a strong link between poverty and disability in street children. This is a vicious cycle, with each factor exacerbating the effects of the other. Collectively, they have huge influence over the lives of street children (3).

Both poverty and disability are being continually studied by research bodies and charities. A better understanding of the causes of poverty and disability and the relationship between them can help put resources to better use. This understanding helps to improve policy making. Disability is a very serious issue in low and middle income countries. As such, reducing both rates of poverty and disability is part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 (1). Part of this hopes to improve rates of disability among street children.

What is poverty?

There are many ways to define poverty. It is generally associated with factors such as socioeconomic status, income and location (1). However, the cut-off point for poverty is less clear when used in the context of street children. In which case, it is more effective to grade poverty in terms of a reduced access to healthcare and a shortage of basic resources (1). The little healthcare received by many street children increases their risk of disability (1).

Disability – a cause of poverty

Sadly, those living with disability are far more likely to also be living in poverty (1). There are various reasons for the poverty gap between disabled and non-disabled people. Some of this can be explained by the way society is currently structured. At present, the way in which we live is more focussed on what able-bodied people require (1). This makes it much harder to live life with disability. While making overall living more difficult, this also makes it harder for people living with disability to get jobs and to earn the money needed for food and living. This promotes exclusion and increases the risk of those living with disability ending up in poverty (4). Exclusion and discrimination make it more likely for a child living with disability to end up on the street (3).

In addition, children are also more likely to have to work on the street when a member of their family is living with disability (2). While this can be very dangerous, it is sometimes seen necessary for a family to survive. For example, in Ghana, many children work on the street to financially support a disabled family member (2).

Poverty – a cause of disability

Poor health

It is far more likely that a person will develop a physical impairment when living in poverty (1). This is most often due to poor health. Street children are much less likely to have access to essential resources, which has an impact on their health and wellbeing. Poor health is more likely when they do not have the resources to live healthy and free of disease.

Furthermore, it is also common for children with additional needs to require more resources. However, disabled children living in poverty often do not receive these. Without additional support, a disabled child is less able to carry out normal and essential tasks. This prevents them from living a healthy and more normal life (1).


Inadequate healthcare, poor sanitation and malnutrition are experienced by many people in poverty, particularly street children (5). These factors often lead to severe disease and can result in permanent disability (4). For example, malnourishment can have a serious impact on a child’s health as it limits physical development (3). Poor nutrition during pregnancy can have detrimental effects on a developing baby and increases the risk of disease later in life (6).


Homelessness is another feature of poverty which can contribute to poor health and disability. Children living on the streets have limited contact with carers and family, where little support from care-providers can lead to poor mental and physical health. Therefore, children living or working on the street are commonly described as ‘children at risk’ (7). UNICEF also describes street children in a similar way by labelling them as ‘children in need of special protection’ (7). Since street children as a whole are particularly vulnerable, many children’s charities are working to better support and protect them.


Many people are also stigmatised when living in poverty and are seen as out-casts. This is disproportionately the case for street children. Therefore, street children living in poverty and with disability are often even more isolated.


There is a strong two-way relationship between poverty and disability. On the one hand, disability increases the risk of a person having to live in poverty. There are many reasons for this and it is often very complex. Children with disability often receive poorer education (10). This is often due to a lack of understanding and judgement from others, and impacts a child’s ability to find work later in life. Without work, poverty and a life on the street is far more likely for these children. Combined with the social exclusion experienced by many disabled children, it is clear that disability can contribute to poverty.

In addition, poverty also increases the risk of disability. Without sufficient money it can be very hard to access vital resources, such as healthcare and nutritional food. This negatively impacts a child’s physical health where disease, malnutrition and a lack of medicine can lead to the development of disability. Therefore, rates of disability are far higher amongst adults and children living in poverty (3).

Poverty and disability in street children

Overall, both poverty and disability are very common in street children (8). Living on the street and with disability has twice the negative impact on a child’s life. More help is urgently required to improve these children’s lives (9). Help us support vulnerable children.


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  2. Ingstad B, Eide A. Disability and Poverty: A Global Challenge. Chicago: Policy Press; 2011.
  3. Street Child. On International Day of Persons with Disabilities we Advocate for Inclusive Education — Street Child [Internet]. Street Child. 2019 [cited 13 June 2021]. Available from:
  4. Mitra S, Posarac A, Vick B. Disability and Poverty in Developing Countries: A Multidimensional Study. World Development [Internet]. 2013 [cited 13 June 2021];41:1-18. Available from:
  5. Banks L, Kuper H, Polack S. Poverty and disability in low- and middle-income countries: A systematic review. PLOS ONE [Internet]. 2017 [cited 13 June 2021];12(12):e0189996. Available from:
  6. Roseboom T. Handbook of Famine, Starvation, and Nutrient Deprivation. The Netherlands: Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute; 2017.
  7. Panter‐brick C. Homelessness, poverty, and risks to health: beyond at risk categorizations of street children1. Children’s Geographies [Internet]. 2004 [cited 13 June 2021];2(1). Available from:
  8. Vameghi M, Sajjadi S, Rafiey H, Rashidian A. SYSTEMATIC REVIEW OF STUDIES ON STREET CHILDREN IN IRAN IN RECENT DECADE: POVERTY, A RISK FACTOR FOR BECOMING A STREET CHILD. Social Welfare [Internet]. 2010 [cited 13 June 2021];:337 To 378. Available from:
  9. Mitra S, Posarac A, Vick B. Disability and Poverty in Developing Countries: A Multidimensional Study. World Development [Internet]. 2013 [cited 13 June 2021];41:1-18. Available from:
  10. Weimert F. Discrimination is the biggest obstacle to education for children with disabilities — Street Child Switzerland [Internet]. Street Child Switzerland. 2018 [cited 5 May 2021]. Available from: