The Street Children Of Baghdad

A US soldier from the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment of the Second infantry Division greets a child in the Shaab neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007 during a house-to-house search.
AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo
They aren't hard to find on Baghdad's streets. Orphans like Fatema, selling incense for pennies.

At eleven years old, dodging cars, she's barely more than a beggar, CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports.

"We're orphans," Fatema says.

Why don't they go to school?

"Because we need the money," she says.

Baghdad has thousands of orphans — though no one knows the exact number. There are too many for the eight orphanages in Iraq's capitol city. Some facilities crowd ten kids to a small bedroom.

Other than the orphanages, will anyone take these children?

"No," says Quammer al-Janni, who coordinates orphan programs for the Red Crescent, the Arabic Red Cross.

The Iraqi government does little to help. And in Iraqi culture, orphans are mostly scorned, and seldom adopted.

They're scared, and many of them are angry — and more violent than other kids.

"I think I am going to cry," Quammer says. "Because I have nothing to do for them. I have nothing to say for them. What am I going to say for them, 'I'm sorry for that'?"

Adults who work with orphans here are scared for them — and for Iraq.

They say "don't forget Saddam Hussein was raised as an orphan."

The last time Fahad saw his parents, militia men were taking them to their death.

A Sunni Muslim, he won't play with Shia children.

Another child Strassmann met, Ayaat, is a Shia, who says she can't live with Sunnis.

This is how it begins. And for these children, no one knows how it will end.

To survive, Mushtaq quit school. He learns on the street, selling incense and gum to strangers.

In faces like his, Quammer sees Iraq's real worry: Its next generation of insurgents and terrorists.

So she spends six days a week helping orphans; she saves only Saturdays for her own kids.

"There is no future for any Iraqi people. Not just for the orphan babies, for all the Iraqi people," she said. "We don't have any future."

Ask Fatema about her future. It's simply survival.