Child Poverty in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is among one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, child poverty in Nicaragua impacts one out of two children. Nicaragua’s population is young; out of 6 million people, 2 million are school-age children. To tackle the issue of child poverty, the Nicaraguan government has promised to create more access to education, sanitation and food security.

Nicaragua has a long history of chronic poverty. For much of the 20th century, the country was under a dictatorship. A revolution beginning in the late 1970s further decimated the well-being of many throughout the 1980s. The revolution ended with thousands dead and a need for Nicaragua to rebuild itself.

Child Poverty in Nicaragua

Child poverty in Nicaragua remains a critical issue. According to UNICEF, 50% of Nicaraguan children live in poverty, with 19% of them in extreme poverty. Furthermore, child poverty is much more prevalent on the Atlantic coast of the country. About 58% of children on the Atlantic coast had completed six years of primary education as opposed to 72% for the country as a whole. Moreover, 500,000 Nicaraguan children do not attend school at all, mainly because of the cost of education and the need to support their families.

When families need financial support, many children and adolescents have no choice but to enter the workforce. An estimated 250,000 to 320,000 Nicaraguans are child laborers. Some children work in sugar cane fields and mines, creating a dangerous work environment for them. In addition to child labor, human trafficking is a growing issue impacting young girls.

Preventing Child Labor

To curtail child poverty, the Nicaraguan government has signed agreements to make sure companies do not hire child workers. In 2019, the Nicaraguan government and private employers have signed 6,129 cooperative agreements that prevent the hiring of children laborers. The U.S. Department of Labor has found that the Nicaraguan government has done little to actually reduce young children in the workforce. However, the international community has been pressuring the country to be more aggressive in diminishing child labor.

Improving Education

An area of increased government involvement is in educational spending. Accepting the help of supranational organizations, such as The World Bank, the country has invested in education. The Alliance for Education Quality Project for Nicaragua has helped fund the training of primary school teachers and the construction of forty schools. Over 1,250 teachers received mentoring and more than 9,000 pre-school teachers obtained training. Additionally, the project supplied materials and equipment for the staff and students. Construction of most of the schools occurred in rural areas, improving these communities’ access to education.

Reducing the Infant Mortality Rate

The infant mortality rate is high, with child poverty in Nicaragua being the culprit. According to UNICEF, 74% of Nicaraguans use standard sanitation services and 52% have access to clean drinking water. Furthermore, 40% of children under 5 are malnourished. The Nicaraguan government and The World Bank have created strategies to tackle these issues. The Sustainable Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (WSS) Sector Project (PROSASR), provided rural communities with adequate infrastructure for sanitation. Furthermore, access to food and clean drinking water has also seen improvements. The Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast Food Security Project has invested in agricultural and fishery techniques for farmers and improved socio-environmental practices. Impacting mostly rural communities, food security increased with 33% of beneficiaries being the youth.

Political and economic instability, stemming from the civil war, has created chronic child poverty in Nicaragua. Nonetheless, Nicaragua has implemented changes, with the help of the World Bank, to decrease the child poverty rate.

– Andy Calderon
Photo: Unsplash

Human Trafficking in Peru
Peru is home to world-famous cultural sites, exquisite dishes and a vast array of bright-colored fabrics. However, beyond the nation’s appealing attractions and delectable meals, human trafficking in Peru is leading to the exploitation of the most vulnerable individuals in society.

Victims of Human Trafficking in Peru

Around 863,000 Venezuelans fled their country and entered Peru in order to seek refuge. Peruvian traffickers exploit refugees when traveling to Peru or shortly after their arrival. In 2019, 301 Venezuelan adults and children worked as prostitutes or engaged in forced labor.

Traffickers exploit adolescents due to their eagerness to work. When Peruvian schools close down from December to February for the holidays, many students seek employment to obtain extra pocket money. However, traffickers lure these individuals in with false promises of work and high financial compensation. Exploiters take the adolescent males to remote areas of the Amazon rainforest, like the Madre de Dios region, to engage in forced labor in the illegal extraction of gold. Additionally, traffickers obligate female teenagers to offer sex services to the adult miners in the area.

Lastly, exploiters target children due to their willingness to follow directions. However,  some Peruvians living in poverty willingly sell their children to human traffickers to receive financial compensation. The infamous terrorist group called The Shining Path steals children and trains them to become soldiers for its organization. Also, some children work as farmers, housekeepers, produce and transport drugs or engage in terrorism. Traffickers who do not belong to the terrorist group force young individuals to engage in panhandling, sell products in the streets, become housekeepers, produce and sell cocaine or other illegal activities.

Challenges with the Judicial System

Individuals found guilty of human trafficking in Peru spend eight to 15 years in prison for exploiting adults, 12 to 20 years for exploiting adolescents and at least 25 years for exploiting children according to Article 53 of the penal code. However, human traffickers almost never receive adequate punishment for their crimes. More often than not, criminals receive light sentences because judges find it difficult to prosecute more complicated crimes.

Solutions

The Peruvian government offered training and workshops on how to identify human trafficking to almost 1,000 government employees and regular citizens. Over 100 members of law enforcement learned how to better identify victims of human trafficking. Also, officials offered training to 22 regions of the country that receive a high amount of foreign visitors in order to reduce exploitation in the tourist sector. Lastly, the government provided support to initiatives that help raise awareness to students and children. These initiatives provide workshops, hand out flyers and engage in conversation with young individuals at transit stations. For example, since its establishment in 2017, A Theater Against Human Trafficking traveled to schools to promote awareness and advocate for the prevention of human trafficking in Peru.

With the in-kind support of the government, nonprofit organizations provided adequate training to 253 members of the judicial system on human trafficking, 821 lawyers and almost 1,000 shelters on how to deal with trafficking victims. They also taught classes to members of law enforcement on how to approach victims. One of the main organizations receiving help from the government is Capital Humano y Social Alternativo. Since its establishment in 2004, CHS Alternativo protected the rights of human trafficking victims and reached more than 1,400 victims.

The Catholic Relief Services in Peru provide shelter and protection to individuals who escaped their traffickers. CRS came to Peru in 1950 and impacted the lives of 15,224 victims. Social workers who work for these organizations go to areas that human trafficking most affects, like Madre de Dios, to provide counseling services to victims. Also, social workers go to local schools to provide workshops about trafficking to students.

Although human trafficking persists in Peru, the government and nonprofit organizations take serious efforts to raise awareness about the issue and to provide help for victims. With the increased efforts to stop human trafficking in Peru, the country can expect a decrease in the exploitation of vulnerable individuals.

– Samantha Rodriguez-Silva
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Cambodia
A shocking 30% of the Cambodian population lives under the poverty line, affecting children most of all. The under-5 mortality rate in Cambodia sits at 25% due to the extreme poverty they live in. Here is some information about child poverty in Cambodia.

Malnutrition and Education

Children in Cambodia face malnutrition from conception due to many women experiencing malnourishment while pregnant. Malnutrition occurs when women do not have the right care during their pregnancy. Limited resources in Cambodia contribute to the issue of women not being able to obtain the necessary care to stay healthy during pregnancy. This absence of nutrition does not end once children are born either. If a baby does not receive post-natal care or proper nutrition in their first couple of months, it can lead to stunting in growth or even death.

On top of that, more than 10% of Cambodian children currently do not go to school. Instead of getting a substantial education, around 45% of children age 5 to 14 partake in labor instead. Though the situation appears dismal for the children of Cambodia, people across the globe are working on solving common problems circling child poverty in Cambodia.

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking has intimate ties to poverty in Cambodia. The four main factors that lead to human trafficking today include mass displacement, conflict, extreme poverty and lack of access to education and jobs. It is extremely common for parents to sell their children to human traffickers or for traffickers to lure children with the prospect of a legitimate job, only for them to enter prostitution. When short on money to provide for their families, parents may sell their daughters’ virginity, as it can give them up to 20 times their household average income a week.

The Rapha House is an organization dedicated to rehabilitating young girls after rescuing them from human trafficking. It started in 2003 after the founder spoke to Cambodian leaders about the threat of human trafficking to Cambodian girls. The organization opened two houses in Cambodia: Battambang and Siem Rep. Each aftercare campus gives child survivors of slavery and sexual exploitation the chance to reclaim their lost childhood. Survivors are treated with love and value instead of abuse and neglect. Volunteers at the houses teach morals and self-love to these girls daily, in hopes of healing them from their trauma.

Educating Children

Though the initial percentages of student enrollment in Cambodia were low, presence in the classroom is rising significantly. The number of children enrolling in primary education increased to over 97% during the 2017-2018 school year. Enrollment had limitations prior due to the need for manual labor in family businesses. Children worked with, or for, their parents to help earn a livable income.

ChildFund has been working on improving education in Cambodia through fundraising since 2007 and has no plans to stop any time soon. Its official website says that helping children living in poverty fulfill their potential through education is one of its top priorities in the country of Cambodia. The funds raised go directly to helping eliminate child poverty in Cambodia allowing donors to sponsor a child and help pay for their education. Education is key in ending the cycle of poverty. Once people learn essential skills, they can go on to get better jobs and make more money.

Helping the Hungry

The national prevalence of under-5 stunting is 32.4%, which is greater than the developing country average of 25% according to the Global Nutrition Report. Cambodia also struggles with an under-5 wasting prevalence of 9.8%, which surpasses the normal developing country average significantly. Malnutrition in children and their mothers during pregnancy causes this stunting. Child poverty in Cambodia often occurs when children lack the proper amount of food per day to remain healthy. If their bodies have no nutrition, they will not have the energy to grow, causing growth stunts.

Action Against Hunger, an activist group aiming to improve all-around nutrition on a global level, has been taking strides to lower Cambodia’s under-5 statistics. Over the course of 2019, the organization created 5,310 community groups focused on increasing food security through rice banks, farming and home gardens. It also helped 7,139 people reach nutrition and health programs and 6,278 people gain access to food security programs. Action Against Hunger says that it has helped 15,744 people total in Cambodia during 2019.

Alleviating child poverty in Cambodia requires more work, but these organizations show that it is possible to improve the situation. Rapha House, ChildFund and Action Against Hunger are all taking huge steps to help eliminate child poverty in Cambodia whether it be through donations, fieldwork or volunteering.

– Kendall Little
Photo: Flickr

hunger in fijiFiji, a country bordering both Tonga and Futana, has faced increased obstacles with food security. It is estimated that amongst the population of 926,276 citizens, over 250,000 individuals are battling poverty and hunger. However, increased efforts have been made to combat this rise in hunger in Fiji.

Problem in Numbers

It is estimated that over 35% of Fiji’s population is below the national poverty line. With the income of households drastically declining, thousands of families do not have the proper resources to thrive.

Fiji children are also heavily impacted, further contributing to the increased rate of hunger in Fiji. It has been recently estimated that over 40% of Fiji’s children are malnourished. A majority of children in Fiji suffer from “protein-energy malnutrition”, meaning that they do not consume enough vital and nutritious foods for their bodies.

The Causes

The lack of food distribution in Fiji points towards a variety of factors. A primary cause is due to Fiji’s political instability and corruption. Additionally, with tourism making up a majority of Fiji’s GDP, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to decreased budgets and widespread unemployment.

Climate change has also affected hunger in Fiji. Cyclones have led to massive agricultural losses, resulting in widespread losses of income and the destruction of food that would be derived from the agricultural crops.

Another cause contributing to the hunger in Fiji is the increased dropout rates among children. With the majority of Fiji’s population battling poverty, children are often instructed to leave school in search of work. From grueling street work to harsh agricultural labor, children earn very little over the years.

In 2016 it was estimated that over 55% of children at primary school age were not attending school. This low schooling rate leaves many children uneducated, unskilled and closed off to stable job opportunities which in turn leaves them unable to afford basic necessities as adults.

The Road to Change

However, despite the increased rates of hunger among the Fiji population, organizations have stepped up to aid the needy. A prominent organization is Moms Against Hunger, which has dedicated itself to providing food for the individuals battling poverty. Moms Against Hunger has recruited numerous volunteers and has delivered over 250,000 food packages to families in need. Under the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of families received enough food to last several months.

Another impactful organization is HELP International, which looks to empower and educate individuals in need. HELP International focused its efforts in the nutrition sector, teaching individuals nutritional guidelines, financial literacy and the importance of schooling. Through these efforts, thousands of families can learn to manage a budget, eat well and pursue higher education.

Additionally, Aggie Global seeks to educate farmers on sustainable practices. Under a team of various volunteers, Aggie Global hosted workshops to teach farmers about crop control, production tricks and sustainable solutions. After conducting these workshops, hundreds of farmers were able to boost production, increasing the amount of food distributed to the public.

The Future

Despite organizations looking to aid those in need, Fiji continues to face problems in feeding the entirety of its population. The efforts from nonprofit organizations provide short-term relief but Fiji is in great need of government assistance to see great and lasting change.

For Fiji to see an immense reduction in its hunger rate, the government must act alongside nonprofit organizations to provide for families. In addition, the Fiji government must prioritize the youth and support and encourage the pursuit of higher education. With increased positive influence and support from Fiji’s government, poverty-stricken families all over Fiji would benefit, lowering the overall hunger rate.

Aditya Padmaraj
Photo: Flickr

the Marist Brothers
Saint Marcellin Champagnat formed the Institute of the Marist Brothers in 1817 with the mission of helping poor and marginalized children around the world. The community of Marist Brothers has now grown to include almost 3,000 members. In 2007, in the spirit of Champagnat’s vision, the Congregation of the Marist Brothers of the Schools established the Marist International Solidarity Foundation (FMSI) in Rome. Its mission is to provide quality care and education for all children. Today, the foundation directly improves the lives of more than 650,000 youth around the world. It does so through its presence in educational, social and youth centers. Three of FMSI’s important mission projects are in Ghana, Haiti and Lebanon.

Ghana: Marist Junior High School

With a fast-growing youth population, experts claim that Ghana has a unique opportunity to utilize its “demographic dividend” as a positive force for its society and economy. Without a strong educational system, however, the growing demographic could exacerbate the country’s poverty. Problems in the Ghanaian educational system, especially in rural settings, include shortages of qualified teachers, adequate teaching spaces and school materials. Additionally, literacy and learning standards are low. Educational institutions struggle to provide quality, inclusive teaching across gender and socioeconomic disparities. Thousands of children drop out of school because their families cannot afford the economic burden.

Fortunately, the Marist Brothers have been quietly contributing to the betterment of Ghanaian education. In 1998, the Marist Junior High School emerged in Sabin-Akrofrom. In this rural area, families cannot afford the transportation costs to send their children to city schools. Since its establishment, the Marist Junior High School has taught more than a thousand students who would have not received schooling otherwise. Its students meet high academic standards, and the facility is now prominent for its effective, inclusive and quality education for children living in remote areas of Ghana.

Haiti: the Collège Alexandre Dumas

In Haiti, thousands of children do not receive an adequate education because families cannot afford to make such financial sacrifices. Because of this, child labor is widespread in Haiti. As of 2019, more than 34% of children between the age of five and 14 were in the labor force. Child labor drastically reduces children’s opportunities to go to school. The government is unable to enforce a minimum age requirement for its workers or prohibit the use of children for dangerous work. Children left at orphanages also often work in hard domestic work.

The Marist Brothers have taken action to advocate for child rights and reduce child labor in the region of Latiboliere. The mission of the Collège Alexandre Dumas secondary school is to improve the lives of children who are vulnerable to exploitation. After successful negotiations with children’s families, the Marist Brothers are now able to host 100 boys and girls per year. In addition to providing basic schooling, this program offers nutritional meals, medical care, and recreational activities like sports and arts. These activities contribute to the Haitian children’s academic, emotional and social advancements. Overall, the school reduces the labor exploitation of minors by educating their families on the importance of schooling.

Lebanon: the Fratelli Project

Lebanon also faces the issue of widespread child labor, which impedes youth access to school. Immigrant children, whose parents experience exclusion from the Lebanese labor market, are especially vulnerable to labor trafficking. They can receive less pay and employers do not require identification papers. However, Lebanese families living in the poorest areas of the country face similar problems to those of immigrant families. Thus, Lebanese child labor is also on the rise. This cycle forces children to become the only source of income for many poor families who cannot afford to lose their support by sending them to school. Consequently, even the children enrolled in an educational institution have poor levels of attendance when due to seasonal labor.

The Marist Brothers’ school, Les Frères, has been helping children in Lebanon since before the Lebanese civil war. Now, in cooperation with the La Salle Brothers, the Marist brothers in Lebanon have introduced a new educational project called Fratelli. The Fratelli project supports hundreds of Lebanese and refugee children who have fallen behind in school. It incorporates socio-academic and vocational training to help them reintegrate into the Lebanese education system. FMSI provides funds to buy school materials, pay activity costs and finance the enlargement of buildings to make Les Frères accessible to more children.

Ghana, Haiti, and Lebanon are just three of the 81 countries around the world where the Marist Brothers have improved children’s lives. By protecting the world’s children, the Marist Brothers are effectively protecting the world’s future.

– Margherita Bassi
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in ArgentinaMore than 125 million children are currently forced into child labor, primarily to help financially support their families. Argentina is one of the many countries that informally uses child labor in its factories and industries. Unfortunately, these children are often overworked and underpaid. As the cruelty and injustice of child labor become increasingly exposed, strides are being made to eliminate the inhumane practice worldwide. Here are seven facts about child labor in Argentina.

7 Facts About Child Labor in Argentina

  1. Cruel conditions and high poverty levels force many young Argentinians into child labor. More than 19% of children ages five to fifteen enter the labor system to provide for their families. This figure is typically higher in urban areas, with up to 43% of children working to supplement their families.

  2. Gender plays a defining role in economic prosperity. In Argentina, there is a large socioeconomic gender gap between men and women in wages and school enrollment. For children under fifteen, a 22% wage gap exists between boys and girls. The problem worsens with age: men are 40% more likely to receive higher wages than women in comparable fields. As such, men more commonly drop out of school and work full-time to provide for their families.

  3. Actions are being taken to reduce child labor. While child labor remains prevalent, many projects and programs have helped lessen the practice in Argentina. Extensive time and work obligations limit many of these children from attending school and flourishing in their education. Proniño, a philanthropy program in Buenos Aires, aims to rectify this problem by funding scholarships for families dependent on their children for income. With more than 1,590 beneficiaries, Proniño has provided hope to numerous students with only a 1.9% dropout rate.

  4. Human trafficking is an improving, yet rampant concern. In Argentina, more than 10,000 victims were rescued from human trafficking. Yet, many are still suffering: there are currently at least 4,000 human trafficking victims every year, most of whom are women and children. Human trafficking often entails coercing children into illicit activities like drug dealing or sexual exploitation. Large international organizations such as UNICEF are taking major steps to eradicate these actions and increase opportunities for disadvantaged children in Argentina. For example, the Ministry of Education and UNICEF enacted a two-year program to provide scholarships for students to attend school in areas protected from human trafficking.  Similarly, UNICEF has allocated an annual budget of $123 million to establish social programs for countries including Argentina. This funding also strengthens educational opportunities for children vulnerable to dangerous household situations and child labor.

  5. Child labor takes many forms. Although common forms of child labor, such as sweatshops, are technically banned in Argentina, the practice persists in other, less obvious forms. For example, many children in the countryside are coerced into prostitution or work on tobacco fields. Despite the historic popularity of these actions, drastic measures are emerging to mitigate their occurrence. Particularly, the Argentinian government is taking stronger stances against child labor laws and corrupt business practices, such as exploiting children to work on plantations. In fact, the government signed a 2018-2020 plan to end human trafficking, child prostitution and exploitation. Also, for the first time, the government sent out a nationwide survey through Argentina’s National Institute of Statistics to better understand child labor laws. The government is currently researching more measures to eliminate child labor.

  6. Healthcare access and child labor are interconnected. Access to healthcare is a prolonged problem in Argentina that perpetuates children into forced labor. Many poor Argentinian families turn to child labor as one of the only ways to afford the medical attention they need. However, a law established in 2005 provides health services and medical supplies to underprivileged children, eliminating much of the financial pressure to engage in child labor for this purpose.

  7. International organizations are getting involved. The United Nations has established objectives to not only lower child labor, but also limit poverty in Argentina. By establishing the Millennial Development Goals, the United Nations hopes to free 760,000 children and families living in underdeveloped areas from child labor. This project focuses on three major hubs of child labor within the country: Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Santa Fe.

Although Argentina still uses child labor in many of its business practices, governments and international organizations are acting swiftly to reduce the amount of forced labor impressed upon young children. With these comprehensive plans in the making, there is promise for eradicating child labor in Argentina.

– Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in South Sudan
South Sudan is an East-Central African nation considered to have one of the worst cases of child labor in the world. The crisis of child labor has been amplified by the outbreak of civil war in 2013, spreading violence and insecurity nationwide. Child labor in South Sudan is a complex issue that negatively affects children’s health and education. However, UNICEF is working to end child labor in the nation.

4 Causes of Child Labor in South Sudan

  1. The civil war has increased the number of displaced persons vulnerable to recruitment by armed group or abduction for forms of child labor including spies, messengers, child soldiers and prostitutes.
  2. Many communities in South Sudan have inadequate access to schools and overall poor quality of education. Thus, much of the population does not see education as a viable alternative to work.
  3. Embedded cultural traditions and social attitudes increase rates of child labor by perpetuating ideas, such as work building character and girls being better suited to domestic work than education. Furthermore, many children in South Sudan are expected to follow their parent’s career paths and learn their trade from an early age, resulting in family sponsored child labor over child education.
  4. Poverty is arguably the most significant factor contributing to child labor globally, with South Sudan being no exception. Child’s incomes are often understood to be necessary for the survival of the household, with 91.9% of South Sudan living in multidimensional poverty. The mass impoverishment of South Sudan has been amplified by the civil war that has devastated the economy, and thus fueled child labor.

Formal vs. Informal Sector

Data on child labor can only be effectively collected from children working within the formal sector. As of 2019, nearly 46% of children aged 10-14 work in the formal sector. About 60% of these children find themselves working in agriculture, over 38% percent in industry and nearly 2% in services. While these ratios of children engaged in formal labor are large, even more children likely work in the informal sector, including jobs such as child soldiers and prostitutes.

Impact on Education and Health

Poor education in South Sudan increases participation in child labor. As a result, only 31.5% of children aged 6-14 were enrolled in school in 2019. Despite the fact that education is free, the rate of primary school completion sits at just 25.7%. Consequently, as of 2019, only about 27% of the adult population in South Soudan is literate. Not only does a lack of education stunt individual children’s development, health and economic opportunities, but also those of communities in which they live.

South Sudan also has a poor healthcare structure. This is reflected in the national life expectancy of 57.6 years, which is only worsened by the institution of child labor. Children working in the informal sector are placed at great risk: these jobs are life-threatening and drastically reduce life expectancy. However, children working in the informal sector are not the only children at risk. Jobs in the formal sector, such as construction and mining, are labor heavy and place great strain on children’s bodies. Journalist Losika Losepio reported in 2018 that an 8-year-old girl in South Sudan working in the mines said “It’s hard work digging and the shovel is heavy. I just want to be in school,” while holding an infected wound on her elbow. In the best of cases, child labor only takes children out of school; in the worst of cases, they are injured by their labor and potentially even killed.

The Good News

UNICEF is a United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children. Programming by UNICEF has made great progress in regard to child labor in South Sudan. In 2018, UNICEF freed over 1,000 children, many of whom were child soldiers for various armed groups. Additionally, UNICEF combats the root causes of child labor, such as lack of education. In 2018, the organization helped to rehabilitate schools damaged by conflict by leading teacher training and providing necessary classroom supplies. Through such efforts, UNICEF also helped 550,000 children re-enroll in school in 2018.

Children everywhere have a right to education, health and safety. Child labor in South Sudan serves as an obstacle to each of these rights and must be counteracted. Progress has been made through organizations such as UNICEF, but the situation remains dire: these efforts must not only continue but expand across the nation.

Lily Jones
Photo: Wikimedia

poverty in Uruguay
Situated on the Atlantic coast of South America is Uruguay, the second smallest country on the continent. With a population of more than 3.4 million and about 60% of them comprising the middle class, Uruguay stands as one of the most economically stable countries in the region. In fact, Uruguay has the lowest poverty rate in South America and is ranked high on such well-being indices as the Human Development Index. In building a secure place as a country, Uruguay has witnessed improvements as well as hindrances in various aspects of its society. Here are six facts about poverty in Uruguay.

6 Facts About Poverty in Uruguay

  1. Life is improving: The percentage of the population living on less than $3.20 per day in Uruguay significantly decreased from 2006 to 2017. While the rate peaked at 3.7% in 2006, it dropped to 0.4% by 2017. In accordance with the near eradication of extreme poverty, the moderate poverty in Uruguay also decreased from 32.5% in 2006 to 8.1% in 2018.

  2. Child labor: In Uruguay, child labor affects 8% of the 8 to 14 year olds. These children work long hours for low wages. In order to make meager earnings to financially support their families, many children in Uruguay forgo school education to work under unfavorable conditions. There has been little progress made to reduce child labor, as the percentage of children ages 5 to 14 in the workforce remained at a relatively constant rate of 6.1% in 2016. Nonetheless, certain organizations like the Telefónica Foundation have been working to raise awareness of and prevent child labor in Uruguay. One program under the organization is ProChild, which was established in 2000 and has developed since then to include a network of 10,000 participants. Another organization that helps children shift out of labor is the MIDES Youth Affairs Bureau. It employs various programs that keep children from entering the workforce at a young age by implementing education services and training.

  3. Higher quality of water sanitation: With the help of the World Bank Group, Obras Sanitarias del Estado (OSE) is now able to provide drinking water to 98% of Uruguayans. In previous years, there had been a chronic shortage of water supply and sanitation services in Uruguay due to the combined effect of low labor productivity and severe floods and droughts. However, with financial support from the World Bank Group, OSE has been able to significantly reduce water loss and continue its upward trajectory of water and sanitation quality.

  4. Decrease in unemployment: In 2002, Uruguay experienced an economic crisis that significantly impacted the country and created widespread unemployment, However, the unemployment rate decreased significantly over the next decade. It was estimated to be 7.6% in 2017 and remains low to this day. Still, the unemployment rate among the young generation has not fared well and continues to rise.

  5. Equitable income levels: There are still disproportionate rates of child- and afro-descendent-Uruguayan populations living below the national poverty. However, income levels in general have seen improvements. Among the poorest 40% of the population, average income levels have risen faster in comparison to the entire population’s average growth rates.

  6. Low gender inequality: The labor market participation ratio between female and male workers in Uruguay is the fourth highest in Latin America. Although the salary gap still exists, as in many of the OECD countries, there has been a steady flow of both female and male laborers into the workforce of Uruguay.

Multiple organizations have stepped up to address and improve the issue of poverty in Uruguay. One such organization is Caritas, which works to provide aid for the poor, from those who have been deprived of liberty to those who lack access to education. Especially through education, training and counseling, the organization has been able to help the most vulnerable groups in Uruguay to cope with their challenging situations.

Despite the recent progress made toward the issue of poverty in Uruguay, certain fundamental limitations in the funding of systems like infrastructure and education have constrained the maximum potential for growth. Certain groups like children and women remain more vulnerable to poverty. Nevertheless, the government has successfully implemented policies and efforts to close the gap between classes over the past years. Now, Uruguay stands on par with many other well-positioned countries around the world with relatively little aid from organizations.

Seunghee Han

Photo: Flickr

Ending Child LaborDespite a 38% global reduction of child labor between 2000 and 2016, hundreds of millions of children remain in exploitative labor conditions. Work deprives children of their formative childhoods and educational experiences, while potentially harming them physically and psychologically. So, how are people and organizations working to end child labor around the world?

Living in poverty is the main reason children work, whether by circumstance or force. However, child labor creates a cycle of poverty. Some children have to work to survive and help support their families. These children, therefore, do not have the time to receive an education. Education is considered a key to escape poverty; without it, children do not have many options other than continuing to work.

Most child labor is in agriculture; more than 75% of child laborers work the fields, but others work in factories or the service industry. Out of the 170 million child laborers, 6 million children are forced into labor. These children often become child soldiers or are sold into prostitution or slavery. The United Nations calls for an end to child labor in all forms by 2025, a mere five years away. Here are three U.N. solutions to achieve their goal to end child labor:

3 UN Solutions to End Child Labor

  1. 2021 is the International Year for Ending Child Labour. The United Nations General Assembly wants to draw attention to the millions of children working in fields, mines and factories during 2021. Member states of the International Labor Organization (ILO), a specialized agency of the U.N., will raise awareness of the importance of ending child labor and share successful projects. These projects include initiatives to reduce poverty, educate children, offer support services and enforce minimum age requirements, among other solutions. As the steady decrease in child labor tapered off in 2016, the hope is that this effort will renew the global community’s interest in eradicating child labor.
  2. The Clear Cotton Project plans to have sustainable cotton industries without child labor. With the rise of fast fashion, cotton is one of the most valuable supply chain commodities. Because of its high demand, the cotton industry is notorious for its use of child labor, now embedded into the supply chain. Children work long, often excruciating, hours picking cotton, weeding and transferring pollen in the fields. In factories and workshops, child workers spin the cotton and have various tasks, from sewing buttons to embroidering fabric. All of this work is often underpaid if compensated at all. The Clear Cotton Project wants its partner countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, Pakistan and Peru to create sustainable cotton industries without child labor. The program, which started in 2018 and will end in 2022, has two strategies aimed at ending child labor. The first includes editing, strengthening and enforcing policy, legal and regulatory framework against child labor in accordance with ILO standards. The second strategy works to support local governments and public service providers. This strategy aims to increase access to education, create youth and women employment schemes and strengthen worker unions so workers can both recognize their rights and monitor their working conditions
  3. Ending child labor in African supply chains is receiving special attention. While the rest of the world saw a decrease in child labor between 2012 and 2016, Sub-Saharan Africa observed an increase. Child labor is most prevalent in supply chains, especially in cacao, cotton, gold and tea. In the tea industry alone, around 14% of children are working as laborers in Uganda. Even more children work in Malawi—38% of all children from ages 5-17. Producing tea is labor-intensive, from preparing the land for planting to harvesting to preparing the leaves for export. Children are involved at every level. To combat this, ACCEL Africa, a four-year program, began in 2018 to “accelerate action for the elimination of child labor in supply chains.” Partnered with the Netherlands, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Mali, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda, the program aims to address the problems that cause institutionalized child labor in supply chains. These countries will also improve their child labor policies and legal framework and enforce the revisions to stop child labor.

While the U.N. has set a challenging goal, with increased awareness, commitment and cooperation, the global community can succeed in its programs, ending child labor by 2025. With a real childhood, education and a brighter future, these children will have a chance to step out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

Zoe Padelopoulos
Photo: Unsplash

Child Labor in Nigeria
Child labor is one of the most monumental issues in Nigeria, a country with a developing economy, affecting a large portion of the country’s children up to age 17. Forgoing a normal care-free childhood, many children living on the front lines of poverty must maintain a job and sustain a regular income. The unethical use of child labor is an issue that has been prevalent throughout human history impacting health, wellbeing and quality of life. Below are 10 facts about child labor in Nigeria.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Nigeria

  1. Several different industries employ children. The jobs available to children are limited to unskilled and physical, labor-intensive tasks. The most common industries that employ children in Nigeria are cocoa farming, gold mining, sediment sifting, street peddling and domestic servitude.
  2. Conditions are hazardous. Although there are labor laws in place, Nigeria does not actively enforce safety regulations or preventative measures in the workplace. This type of neglect leads to an extremely dangerous environment that often results in bodily harm, severe trauma and even death. Children who work on the streets often make easy targets for violence and kidnapping. If a child suffers harm on the job, help or compensation does not extend to the family, leaving them to face the repercussions alone.
  3. Children often support their families. Much of child labor is a direct result of Nigeria’s extreme poverty, which accounts for around 70% of the nation’s population living below the poverty line, according to the CIA World Factbook. Families struggling to make ends meet often enlist the help of their children to bring in additional income. Without an effective welfare system, many families have no other option for survival. In an even more dire situation, some laborers who are orphans shoulder the entire burden of providing for younger siblings. Recent findings by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development found that about 17.5 million children become orphans or enter similarly vulnerable situations throughout the country.
  4. Child labor is on the rise. Estimates determine that the current number of child workers in Nigeria is 15 million according to the International Labor Organization (ILO). At a staggering 43% of the total population of minors, it is the highest recorded rate of child labor in Western Africa. The poverty rates have risen almost 20% — up from 53% in 2003 — in the span of 7 years, according to the World Bank and CIA World Factbook. This environment of financial strife causes more and more families to expect their children to go out to work and contribute an income.
  5. Children often drop out of school. Due to the rigid demands of a long workday, school often becomes less of a priority. Education is not legally mandatory in Nigeria so there is no required attendance. The lack of a proper education ensures they will remain unskilled laborers into adulthood, making it nearly impossible to escape the cycle of poverty. The Bureau of International Labor Affairs reports only 76% of children in total go to school, and about 27% of child laborers attend school in addition to work. Some reports have stated that certain schools exploit their students and make them work or beg during school hours to earn money for teachers.
  6. Many children experience trafficking. Children who are especially vulnerable, such as orphans, are more at risk for human trafficking and forced labor than adults, with their rate being estimated at 58%. Enticed by fictitious stories of better jobs located in more economically rich areas, they agree to leave their homes in hopes of making money. However, the traffickers never deliver the promise and the victims find themselves in even worse situations and unable to go home. Upon arrival, traffickers often claim that the child has accrued debt from transport. To maintain control and prevent runaways, traffickers use coercion in the form of threats against the child or their families back home to motivate them to pay off their debt. Unfortunately, these children find themselves in a ruse, where ballooned charges that continuously compound prevent them from ever making their final payment.
  7. Slavery is common. Around 30% of child workers do not receive compensation and must work against their will. Child slavery is very common in cases of trafficking or when there is no one to advocate for the child. In trafficking cases, traffickers tell the child that their salaries are going towards paying off their “debt.” In some live-in situations, their room and board charges absorb their pay. Those who do receive actual payment usually only take home pennies on the dollar.
  8. Girls are at higher risk for sexual exploitation, resulting from trafficking within the sex industry. A former government official, Martin Uhomoibhi, revealed to the U.N. that there were 602,000 known victims who made the dangerous journey across the continent in 2016. However, the total number of victims is widely unknown, since traffickers covertly smuggle many of the girls and women smuggled across Nigeria’s border, but experts believe that these numbers are some of the highest in the world. Traffickers often bring girls to brothels and restrain and force them to service clients in deplorable conditions despite any physical health ailments, according to horrifying testimonies that the Human Rights Watch recorded. The outlook for these girls is grim, as many die in captivity or move back to the streets due to critical conditions that render them unable to work, and therefore no longer profitable to their captors.
  9. There are unofficial wartime drafts. Regional conflicts and war cause armies to form as a way of resistance and protection against outside threats. Many know Africa for this sort of violence, with brutal wars routinely escalating. People often pull boys as young as 10 years old from their homes, give them a deadly weapon and order them to kill an unknown enemy. UNICEF estimates that around 3,500 Nigerian child soldiers have enlisted between 2013-2017. Many children die in active combat or from a lack of supplies.
  10. The government response has been underwhelming. New hope for relief on the child labor front occurred when the government signed the Child Rights Act into effect in 2003. Unfortunately, the government has put little effort forth toward ending the practice since its ratification. Many experts believe there will be no true resolution until the government steps in with not only stricter regulations, but absolute enforcement.

Children are society’s most vulnerable people. With no voice to advocate for their rights, they are in a poor position to influence political policy. A child’s place is in school where they can receive a proper education and use it to build a promising future, not just for themselves but for the society in which they live as well. It is the task and moral responsibility of adults and officials in power to prioritize basic human rights over the gilded benefits of cheap labor and end this practice permanently.

– Samantha Decker
Photo: Flickr