Child labor in somaliaBelow are 10 facts about child labor in Somalia. Decades of conflict after the civil war has brought unspeakable violence and devastation to Somalia. The war had displaced 1.4 million people and left 60 percent of the population below the poverty line. Most frightening of all are the effects the conflict has had on the children. The mortality rate of children under 5  is 85 percent, and countless children are forced to engage in child labor. These 10 facts about child labor in Somalia show the continued gravity of the situation.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Somalia

  1. Half of all children between ages 5 and 14 from central and southern Somalia are employed. Even in the more stable regions of Puntland and Somaliland, a quarter of the child population is employed. Many of these tasks include agricultural and household jobs, such as farming and cleaning. Although many children are employed by choice, the worst cases of child labor include the forced recruitment of child soldiers and other forms of forced labor.
  2. Unemployment in Somalia is one of the highest in the world. Nearly 54 percent between the ages of 15 and 64 are unemployed. Many children are sent to work by their families who cannot afford to support themselves after famine, drought, and war have ravished their rural communities. Because children are paid lower wages than adults, they are more likely to find work to help their families survive.
  3. In 2017, Somalia approved a National Development plan that would help to eliminate child labor. However, gaps in their legislation and difficulty enforcing laws under an unstable government have prevented these laws from properly addressing the child labor crisis in Somalia.
  4. Laws to protect children from exploitation largely focus on the military recruitment of children and ignore other aspects of child labor. Although children under 15 are only allowed to perform light work, the laws do not identify hazardous occupations or activities prohibited for children. Furthermore, they do not detail the amount of time that young people can work.
  5. Child trafficking for labor and sexual exploitation is not clearly prohibited or punished by law in Somalia. Procuring children for prostitution or pornography is not criminally prohibited. Children are often trafficked, especially the young girls who are very likely to drop out of school at the legal age of 14. Children in refugee camps are often kidnapped and taken to Kenya or Saudi Arabia where they are used for labor, sexual exploitation or to beg on the streets.
  6. Because many schools have been destroyed by the war, only a quarter of Somali children attend school. Legally, children are obligated to attend school until age 14. However, the legal working age is 15. This gap year between ending school and beginning work creates a critical situation for many Somali children and puts them in danger of exploitation of various kinds.
  7. Perhaps the most shocking fact among these 10 facts about child labor in Somalia is the continued use of child soldiers. Although laws were passed to prohibit the recruitment of child soldiers in Somalia, the Somali National Army continues to use children as young as 8 in armed conflict. It is estimated that nearly 20 percent of their soldiers are children. Additionally, Al-Shabab still holds power in areas where the government has little practical control, particularly rural areas. Here, they can continue to forcibly recruit child soldiers to their cause.
  8. Under the support of UNICEF, community-based initiatives, such as the Tadamun Social Society, are working to offer children and parents a place to turn to for support among the upheaval in Somalia. These organizations work to find cases of abuse or child endangerment and educate people on how to better protect their children. They hold public meetings, often in refugee camps, to discuss the dangers of female genital mutilation and how to safely report concerns to town authorities and doctors.
  9. The Child Protection Committee also arranges public meetings with potential employers. Many people, both young and old, are exploited by their employers and cannot count on reliable or timely payment. These meetings help people find work with employers that offer a fair contract and the threat of legal action if the terms are breached. As workers’ rights are protected and more people at the legal working age find fair work, it is the hope that child labor will be diminished.
  10. Although delivering aid to Somalia poses certain threats to workers, organizations such as UNICEF and Save the Children continue to help Somalians in need of food, water, medicine, and education. By helping Somalians fend off starvation and sickness, they help protect the children from exploitation and lessen the need for child labor. Save the Children has helped more than 1.6 million children in crisis. This year, UNICEF plans to bring safe water and drinking services to 950,000 people in Somalia. They also estimate helping 165,000 children or youth access education services.

These 10 facts about child labor in Somalia highlight the continued need for more governmental protection and humanitarian aid. Although the crisis continues, Somalia is more openly addressing the issue. As local organizations work to help keep children in school and educate people about the reality of this threat, as highlighted in these 10 facts about child labor in Somalia, there is an increasing awareness about the gravity of the situation. This awareness is the first step towards lasting change.

– Christina Laucello
Photo: Flickr