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child poverty in costa ricaDespite being one of the most progressive countries in Latin America in terms of free education, no military and access to healthcare, there are still many people living in poverty in Costa Rica and the youngest people are oftentimes hit the hardest. More than 65% of poor Costa Ricans are under 35 years old and children under the age of 18 make up the largest group of the poor. Additionally, many of the children who are impacted by child poverty in Costa Rica are indigenous. When it comes to children, issues include child labor, child mortality and disparities in education.

Things to Know About Child Poverty in Costa Rica

  1. Primary school in Costa Rica is free and mandatory and many children have access to the education system. However, many children who come from poor families or rural areas miss out on education because they work to provide for their families. About 8% of children in Costa Rica are not educated and 9% of children from the ages of 5 to 14 are economically active as their families depend on the money their children generate. As a country that is a major producer of coffee, work and harvesting is a priority in Costa Rica. In fact, during the coffee bean harvest, the teachers and students in poor regions in Costa Rica go to the farms to work in order to afford school supplies.

  2. Costa Rica has a large number of child trafficking victims. About 36,000 children in Costa Rica are orphans and due to the lack of or dysfunction in their family structures, many of these children are at risk of exploitation, drug abuse and gang violence.

  3. Although Costa Rica has the longest life expectancy in Latin America and an effective health care system, there are still issues regarding child mortality. Roughly, 10% of children in Costa Rica die before reaching the age of 5. These are often the children who are born into families living below the poverty line, indigenous families or rural families.

  4. Violence against children in Costa Rica is a concern. In fact, there were over 700 sexual violence cases in 2009, though it is estimated that much more went unreported. The physical and psychological abuse and violence that children endure has serious consequences for their development and health.

SOS Children’s Villages

SOS Children’s Villages initially started with a commitment to caring for orphaned or abandoned children throughout the world. There are SOS Children’s Villages in three cities in Costa Rica: San José, Limón and Cartago. SOS Children’s Villages aim to address child poverty in Costa Rica. The organization provides Costa Rican children with day-care, education, medical services and vocational training, sports facilities and playgrounds. Children whose parents cannot take care of them are often taken in. The organization has a comprehensive approach: preventing child abandonment, offering long-term care for children in need and empowering young people with the resources to reach their full potential.

The organization’s YouthCan! program trains adolescents to enhance their skills and competencies in order to achieve employment. In Costa Rica, where almost 100,000 young people were unemployed in 2016, the youth development program lasts for three to 12 months. The program consists of life skills training, employability training and helping the youth find jobs and further training opportunities.

Through organizations like the SOS Children’s Villages, child poverty in Costa Rica can be successfully alleviated.

– Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in ArgentinaPrior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many children in Argentina had been living in poverty. The pandemic has caused numbers to soar due to its many negative effects. When considering the long-term presence and future impacts caused by poverty, it is all the more critical to help the children in this country, and around the world. This article highlights facts about child poverty in Argentina, as well as some organizations on the ground helping such children.

The Current Situation

There has never been a more critical time for action than now. UNICEF estimates that 63% of Argentinian children will be living in poverty by the end of 2020, due to COVID-19. In August of 2019, child poverty reached over 50%, with 13% of children in a state of hunger. As compared to the year prior, this is an 11% increase. UNICEF estimates that at the end of 2020, there will be an increase of 18.7% in extreme poverty among children and teenagers.

Stats

The above figures depict that one in every two Argentinian children lives in poverty, which amounts to five million children. One million of these children are homeless. Those who do have homes often deal with rough home lives. Many children are subject to child labor, which includes work as domestics or “house slaves.” These children end up working in illegal textile workshops, mining, construction, or agriculture. The exploitation of child labor is commonly related to sexual exploitation. In response, Argentina has passed laws and social programs to end child labor and sexual exploitation. However, the fight to end these practices must continue.

When not at home, (only a few) children received a formal education. As of 2017, nearly 20% of Argentinian children do not attend school. After the collapse of the economy nearly 20 years ago, funding for education was heavily reduced. Children living in poverty were the first to be affected, as they had to work in order to provide for their families. There are also issues with violence occurring in schools. Bodily punishment still takes place when young school children misbehave, which can develop into behavioral problems and the belief that violence is the norm.

As compared to the rest of the population, Native children are at high risk for poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment. For example, in the province of Tucumán, the Indigenous children and families live well below the poverty line and have also suffered illegal evictions from their ancestral lands. Additionally, these children are exposed to violence, malnutrition, disease, and a lack of proper education.

Aid

Child poverty in Argentina seems rather defeating based on these statistics. However, there are multiple organizations that are on the ground fighting for the human rights, safety, health, and happiness of Argentinian children.

One is Mensajeros de la Paz, a temporary home for vulnerable girls. Another is the Sumando Manos Foundation, which extends pediatric visits out to more than 7,000 at-risk children and their communities. The foundation also supplies food, provides critical medical and dental attention, and teaches fundamental health care. There is also Fundacion Oportunidad. This organization increases opportunities for economic and social integration of young Argentinian women in a situation of social vulnerability. Involvement in these organizations, as well as donation opportunities, are endless.

There are five dimensions of well-being that are vital to the success of childhood development. They are adequate nutrition, education, safe areas to live and play, access to health services, and financial stability. The fight cannot stop until there is an end to child poverty in Argentina and until each child has access to a self, healthy life.

Naomi Schmeck
Photo: Flickr

Children in Burkina FasoBurkina Faso, a small, landlocked country in Western Africa, is one of the least developed countries in the world. About 45% of the over 20 million who live in the nation face poverty. Nearly 2.2 million people live in dire need of aid, with children half of those in need. This crisis has only worsened due to the ongoing conflicts in the Sahel region of Western Africa, which have displaced millions of Burkinabé people and put them at a higher risk of poverty.

Children in Burkina Faso, who make up 45% of the population, face more challenges than nearly any other group of children on Earth — many of them have low access to nutrition, education, and healthcare, and are often subjected to child labor and marriage.

Hunger and Malnutrition

While Burkina Faso has always struggled with hunger, with 25% of children stunted from malnutrition, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem. The number of people in need of food aid has tripled to 3.2 million, and many of those suffering from malnutrition are children. Doctors and nurses in Burkina Faso are reporting extremely high numbers of malnourished children entering their healthcare facilities each day. Prior to the pandemic, Burkinabé children experienced hunger as a result of displacement from the conflicts in Africa’s Sahel region.

Education

While attending primary school is compulsory for children in Burkina Faso between the ages of seven and fourteen, this rule is not enforced, and about 36% of children do not attend. Additionally, 67% of girls over the age of fifteen do not know how to read or write. The high levels of poverty in the country lead to low levels of education. Furthermore, the conflicts in the area have only made it harder for children to access and attend their schools. Attackers have raided the schools, injuring teachers and putting Burkinabé children at risk.

Healthcare

Burkina Faso has the tenth-highest under-five mortality rate in the world, with 87.5 out of every 1,000 children in 2019 dying before their fifth birthday. About 54 infants die for every 1,000 live births . That majority of these deaths are from communicable diseases and malaria, which the nation has struggled to prevent and control. While the number of healthcare workers in the area has increased in the past few decades, particularly between 2006 and 2010, it has not been quite enough to combat the need of the ever-growing population, and many children in the area are left without healthcare access.

Child Marriage

Over half of Burkinabé children are married before their eighteenth birthday, and the country has the fifth highest rate of child marriage in the world. One in ten girls under nineteen have already given birth to at least one child. Girls with limited access to education have a higher chance of marrying as children. The same holds true for girls who live in impoverished households. Both of these trends remain common in Burkina Faso. The apparent social value ascribed to girls in the region is considered lower than their male counterparts. As a result, young girls who enter child marriages often do not have a choice in their future husbands.

Child Labor

42% of children in Burkina Faso are engaged in child labor rather than attending school. Though the government adopted a “National Strategy to End the Worst Forms of Child Labor” and raised the legal minimum working age to sixteen, these high rates of child labor have not decreased significantly over the past few years. These children work as cotton harvesters, miners of gold and granite, domestic workers, and in some rare cases, sex workers. Child labor puts children at risk of serious injury, and, in some extreme cases, even death.

While children in Burkina Faso face all of these challenges, work is being done to help them live safe, healthy and educated lives. Save the Children, UNICEF, Action Against Hunger and Girls Not Brides are just a handful of the organizations working in Burkina Faso to ensure that these children receive the care they need and deserve. Childhood in this region is, in fact, difficult. Yet, all is not lost as these groups work to improve the lives of children across Burkina Faso.

Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

Child poverty in HaitiHaiti, a small country that borders the Dominican Republic on the Hispaniola island, suffers greatly from poverty. Natural disasters, systemic inequality and diminishing economic opportunities create a dire state of extreme poverty. Specifically, child poverty in Haiti is the major poverty crisis.

Over half of Haiti’s 11.2 million population live on less than $3 a day, and malnutrition affects 65,000 children under five. Many children under 14 — over a third of Haiti’s population — do not have ready access to health care, clean water, food security or the right to fair and decent work. The question stands: What does child poverty in Haiti look like today, and what obstacles persist in ending it?

It’s easy to forget that statistics reflect the experience of real, living people. Please keep this in mind. Considering this, here are five facts about child poverty in Haiti.

The Statistical Perspective

  1.  Caloric and nutritive malnutrition affects nearly a third of children in Haiti. Out of every five children, one child is malnourished and one out of 10 is acutely malnourished. Before the age of five, one child out of 14 will die. Those who live deal with the effects of inadequate food supplies. Poor access to vital nutrients means that children are subject to poor health, growth and development.
  2. Despite Haiti’s free publication education, only half of elementary-aged children are enrolled in school. Millions of disadvantaged parents have very few with little resources to secure education for their children. This is a result of Haiti privatizing 92% of schools.
  3.  Nearly half a million children are orphaned in Haiti. A significant proportion of these “lost” children are exploited for labor in dangerous conditions. “Host households” take in children whose families cannot provide for them. Many of these children — known colloquially as “restaveks” — end up as victims of human trafficking.
  4.  Adequate health care is hard to come by in Haiti. Child immunization has stagnated at 41%. The proportion of children who die before their first birthday has risen by 2% in the last year – from 57% to 59%. HIV, tuberculosis, and a variety of other chronic, crippling diseases ail an estimated 20,000 children in Haiti, and treatment is increasingly difficult to obtain.

COVID-19

Haiti is particularly prone to natural disasters, in large part due to its geographical situation in the Bermuda. A magnitude 7.0 earthquake ravaged the island of Hispaniola in 2010. A slew of tropical storms, hurricanes and additional earthquakes further compromised Haiti. Nearly 10 years later, Haiti still struggles with recovering from its 2010 earthquake and hurricane Matthew alongside dealing with recent social unrest and COVID-19.

Humanitarian aid efforts are nearing an all-time high for the country, but the efficacy of these programs and endeavors has been questioned. The threats of COVID-19 aren’t the only ones Haiti must face. The future is increasingly uncertain for millions of Haitians and their children, due to equipment shortages, lack of qualified health care professionals and a worsening economic climate.

Ways to Help

What is there to do? Explore The Borgen Project’s homepage. From there, it’s easy to email and call representatives and leaders. There is the option to donate to the cause. For free, one can create momentum on social media to raise awareness about the dire situation in Haiti. A number of ways exist to combat child poverty in Haiti; it just takes action.

Henry Comes-Pritchett
Photo: Flickr

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to nations all over the world, but especially in the global south. India, for example, has an enormous population of 1.3 billion people, with labor forces large enough to create the world’s fifth largest economy. However, as of September 3rd, total confirmed cases across the country had reached 3.85 million, with 67,376 total deaths. As COVID-19 spreads throughout India, it leaves behind long-term effects on issues from medical resources to economic scarcity. 

Income and Unemployment

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic in India, economic disparity existed in many forms. In 2019, the average per capita monthly income was approximately 10,534 Indian Rupees. To put this in perspective, 10,534 Indian Rupees equals $143.42 USD, meaning the annual income of the average Indian citizen was just $1,721.04. Over the past 5 years, India’s unemployment rate has been increasing steadily, but in April 2020, skyrocketed to 23.5%. Factories and construction sites, known for housing and feeding temporary employees, threw their workers onto the streets. 95% percent of employed women worked in informal positions, many let go as households and businesses determined outside workers were too dangerous. As restrictions are slowly lifting across the country, frightened people return to work, since the fear of starvation holds more weight than fear of infection. 

Lack of Medical Resources

For those in need of COVID-19 medical care, options for help are slim. According to reports from the New York Times, public hospitals are so immensely overwhelmed that doctors have to treat patients in the hallways. For those with non-COVID related medical needs, options are almost nonexistent. On March 24th, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that to “save India”, a nationwide lockdown on all nonessential surgeries was necessary. For Ravindra Nath Singh, a 76-year-old man with Parkinson’s, this meant being discharged from the ICU in a hospital in Lucknow, just minutes after becoming stable on a catheter and feeding tube. For a young woman in New Delhi, this meant eight hospitals turning her away while in labor for 15 hours, only to die in the back of an ambulance.

Child Labor and Education

The spread of COVID-19 in India forced schools to shut down, proving unhelpful to their already existing struggle for attendance. According to a study in 2018 by DHL International GmBH, India hosts the highest population of uneducated children with an intimidating 56 million children not in school. As restrictions across the country lift, one of the biggest hurdles will be encouraging enrollment, especially with uncertain learning conditions. Enrollment hesitation enables another widespread issue in India: child labor. Experts claim the biggest spike in child labor is yet to come, as immense economic losses will compel large corporations to seek cheap labor.  

The lack of in-person education has also proven to have a significant impact on child mental health. 12-year-old Ashwini Pawar once dreamt of being a teacher, but now must reconsider her life’s ambition. In an interview with TIME magazine, she considers her family financial burdens, “even when [school] reopens I don’t think I will be able to go back…”. This mentality pushes concerns of economic inequality, as this pandemic might destroy great strides made over the past decade.         

Deaths and Infection Rates

In very little time, India has become the new epicenter of the Coronavirus. The daily number of confirmed cases shot from about 40,000 to 80,000 in just a few weeks. Unlike most of the world, this virus is heavily affecting the workforce demographic. More than 50% of COVID-19 deaths in India have occurred between the ages of 40 – 64, an interesting contrast to developed countries where 70% of deaths have occurred in age groups 70 and older. According to Sanjay Mohanty, a lead scientific author from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, this contrast is due to India’s age distribution. Mohanty states, “the median age in the country is 24 years and therefore more younger people are available for virus transmission…”. Unfortunately, the road to recovery is a long one, as millions of people are still susceptible to infection. 

The Good News

Despite the seemingly daunting situation, there are many reasons to have hope for India. Well-known charities such as Unicef and Give2Asia have focused aid on India, pushing their needs into the limelight. Newly-risen charities are also making impressive strides on the ground. Snehalaya ‘Home of Love’ is a charity based out of Ahmadnagar dedicated to feeding poor families during the pandemic. In Ahmadnagar’s 17 official slums, Snehalaya has fed over 17,000 families and raised over $80,000 of aid in just 6 months.

Hope also goes beyond organized help. As seen in various reports, neighbors are sharing all types of resources, from food to hygiene products. Global pandemic or not, India’s path to healing is futile without charity aid and attention.

—Amanda J Godfrey
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in PanamaPanama — the narrow bridge of land that connects North and South America. The tropical country is renowned for its natural beauty and diverse plant, animal and bird life. Yet, all that sparkles, is not glitter. Panama’s economy is highly unequal and there’s a wide gap between the rich and the poor. Poverty in Panama is as much of a prominent feature of the country as its landscape.

Rural Poverty

Ethnicity and geographic location determine one’s poverty in Panama. Panamanians who live in rural areas do not have adequate access to resources, such as hospitals and schools. This is a result of the lack of professional doctors and teachers or mentors in rural areas.

Panama is the second worst in income distribution in Latin America, which leads to sector-specific poverty. Unpaved roads in the country make it are especially difficult for farmers. Accordingly, they do not end up selling their crops in big cities where they can earn a large income. Thus, begins a chain of poverty in Panama that devolves into poor hygiene, sanitation, child labor, malnutrition and eventually yet another generation submerged in loans.

Child Poverty

About 27.7% of Panamanian children live in poverty and 12% experience malnutrition. Failure to register children at birth causes many to go without citizenship. Thus, the government is ignorant on its exact child population and cannot justly allocate money to the “nonexistent.”

Around 15% of children are victims to early marriages. The legal age to marry in Panama is 16 for boys and 14 for girls. However, most of these children are not registered with the government, so kids are married off at ages as young as 10.

The minimum age for working in Panama is 15. Even with this being the case, 5-year-old children can be seen carrying bricks in construction sites. Severally underage workers — child laborers — even appear in big cities like Panama City and Tocumen. To earn a few dollars more, families force their children to work. However, it’s at the cost of children being mentally and physically exploited.

The Rays of Light

Panama has done much to fight poverty. From 2015-2017, poverty in Panama declined from 15.4%  to 14.1%. In the same time span, extreme poverty decreased from 6.7% to 6.6%. Additionally, there are currently multiple NGOs working to help poverty and other problems in Panama. One is to Educate Women in Panama. The organization’s goal is to help lower poverty in the future through more women and girls getting their education. Education will help these women find jobs easier, lowering the poverty rate.

The country, with aid of NGOs and the government, has the potential to bridge the income inequality gap and make itself an equitable society for all, regardless of class, region or ethnicity. Panama can be as bright and colorful as its beaches for not only the urbanites but also the rurals.

Riddhi Bhattacharya
Photo: Flickr

Child LaborChild labor in Pakistan continues to be a reality faced by many Pakistani children. Deprived of the opportunity to study like most other children, many are forced into work from an early age. Although Pakistan’s Employment of Children Act 1991 addresses this issue, the country continues to have difficulties implementing the legislation.

Child Labor in Pakistan

According to a 2018 report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Pakistan has a big problem with child labor: an estimated 12 million children work in the country. Many of these children have limited educational opportunities. One of the most common jobs that these children are forced to do is domestic servitude, which requires children to serve the owners of the house. These child laborers may be forced to work from dawn to dusk, fed with leftovers and allowed to be punished in different ways. As a result of this form of labor, children are deprived of healthcare and education.

Since 2016, a project called Pakistan Decent Work Country Programme has operated in Pakistan. The organization assists the Pakistani government in eliminating the worst forms of forced labor for children. However, a new campaign is targeting attention on domestic child labor in Pakistan.

End Child Domestic Labor Campaign

In Pakistan, it is illegal to employ children under the age of 18 in factories. Until recently, the country lacked a law prohibiting children from working at home in most states. However, in June, a campaign was launched by Idare-e-Taleem-o-Asgahi (ITA) called End Child Domestic Labor. The campaign consists of 20 rights-based Pakistani organizations and suggests that children between 10 and 18 years of age belonging to any economic stratum be treated the same. In short, it argues that child abuse occurring through domestic labor must end. Accordingly, the campaign proposed a constitutional amendment that would prohibit all children under the age of 16 from engaging in any type of work.

Along with the campaign, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has developed the following strategies to address child labor in Pakistan:

  1. Strengthen the capacity of tripartite constituents to address child and bonded labor in the rural economy.
  2. Raise awareness in rural communities about the importance of ending child labor and bonded labor.
  3. Support federal and provincial authorities to improve their capacities in data collection and analysis.
  4. Promote inter-agency cooperation, partnership and learning to improve knowledge sharing and advocacy.
  5. Support ILO constituents to develop a community system for monitoring children and bonded labor.

New Law Bans Child Labor in Pakistan

On Aug. 6, 2020, Pakistan banned child domestic labor for the first time, passing an amendment that makes it illegal for children to participate in domestic labor. The government recognized the consequences of this labor, such as trauma and abuse, among young domestic workers.

The new law was implemented in response to the death of Zohra Shah, an 8-year-old girl and domestic worker who was brutally beaten and died. At the same time, Shah is not the only victim of abuse as a result of child labor in Pakistan. Among the other victims is 16-year-old Uzma Bibi, who was beaten. In addition, 10-year-old Tayyaba Quein was abused, making this a serious problem for the country. Accordingly, the Federal Minister of Human Rights announced that the cabinet’s decision will now include child domestic labor under the Employment of Children Act 1991.

The new law marks a change in Pakistan, where children will have access to education and a better life, without mistreatment or abuse. At the same time, it takes a step toward a better quality of life for all minors who are forced to work. This is and will be a great step for children’s rights and an example for other countries.

Juliet Quintero
Photo: Flickr

Alleviate Poverty in North Macedonia
When Yugoslavia disintegrated in 1991, Macedonia became an autonomous nation. However, standards of living have significantly decreased since the country’s independence. Unemployment rates are consistently high, which has directly affected children across the nation. Approximately 6% of children work and 12% marry before turning 18. The child poverty rate is 27.1%, with those from a Roma background at a much higher disadvantage. Fortunately, international organizations and the government are working to eliminate child poverty in the nation. Here are four efforts to alleviate child poverty in North Macedonia.

4 Efforts to Alleviate Child Poverty in North Macedonia

  1. UNICEF Solutions: Child poverty in Macedonia is a pervasive issue: an excess of 100,000 children are still in states of deprivation. Poverty affects children on every level, which includes faltering health, child marriage, abuse and lack of educational success. For instance, 1 out of 10 children in Pelagonija is affected by poverty when compared to 1 out of 2 in the Northeast. Moving forward, UNICEF has outlined solutions to aid the effort to end child poverty. These include offering accessible health care at no cost and supplying quality education to all children.
  2. Prioritizing Children: More than 100,000 children across Macedonia, 28% of the country’s youth, are affected by poverty. In 2018, leaders from the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, UNICEF and the World Bank, as well as child poverty experts convened to formulate solutions that would eliminate child poverty. They agreed that social reform must prioritize the children to fight against poverty. All families with minimal income received an education and child allowance, helping to provide children affected by poverty with the opportunity at an equal start.
  3. Inclusive Education: One out of 300 children living in poverty goes to preschool, while only two-thirds attend secondary education. North Macedonia’s education system is unsustainable due to a variety of factors. Low budgets, lack of ethnic integration among youth and limiting children who have disabilities are a few of the reasons education has fallen behind. In 2002, USAID implemented inclusive learning programs across all levels of education, which has helped children with disabilities and supported diverse ethnic integration.
  4. The Romani Children: The Romani population in Macedonia is estimated to be around 260,000 as of 2020. Moreover, 73% of Romani children who attend school never complete their education. Roughly 3 to 4 children per household are of age to go to school, yet the costs of sustaining schooling for this many children have become a financial burden. To help curb these rates, the Roma Education Fund, founded in 2005, has been focusing on education reform for the Roma communities across Macedonia. It offers young Roma people living in Macedonia scholarships to assist with primary and secondary education.

These four efforts show the nation’s determination to support children in need, and, more broadly, to shift Macedonia from an impoverished nation to one of prosperity and equality. The success of these reforms will depend on governmental spending, as well as programs supported by nonprofits and international organizations. Moving forward, alleviating child poverty in Macedonia must continue to be a priority.

Michael Santiago
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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

 Facts About Child Labor in Iraq

Iraq is one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid. It has been wracked by violence for decades. Children in Iraq are particularly vulnerable to exploitation in this violent situation. These 10 facts about child labor in Iraq demonstrate just how dangerous it can be.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Iraq

  1. More than 575,000 children worked instead of going to school in Iraq in 2016. This is an increase of more than 250,000 since 1990 when the First Gulf War began and the ongoing violence within Iraq started. Approximately 75 percent of Iraqi children age 5 to 14 attend school, but attendance rates are unevenly distributed. In governates that have experienced violence, up to 90 percent of children are out of school.
  2. Children are coerced into various kinds of work. Some work in agriculture or industries such as construction, factory work and brick making. Children also work in the service industry and are involved in domestic work and street work, such as selling goods and pushing carts. It is estimated that 2 percent of children age 12-14 spend 28 hours or more a week on housework. The same number of children perform unpaid work for someone other than an immediate family member. About 12 percent work for their family’s businesses.
  3. Many children in Iraq are coerced into the “worst forms of child labor” as identified by the International Labour Organization (ILO). These include recruitment into armed conflict, use in illegal activities such as drug trafficking, forced begging, domestic work as a result of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Forces on both sides of the current conflict in Iraq have used child soldiers, one of the worst forms of child labor. In 2018, ISIL was responsible for recruiting 39 children and detaining more than 900.
  4. The Popular Mobilization Forces, a militia officially endorsed by the Iraqi state, has reportedly trained more than 200 children to join the fight against ISIS. Human Rights Watch has documented 38 cases of children being recruited into forces affiliated with the PKK, some as young as 12. On the other side of the conflict, ISIS has consistently used children as suicide bombers and soldiers. ISIS recruits children as they are easiest to indoctrinate. Sometimes they will pay impoverished families hundreds of dollars a month to send their children to military training camps.
  5. Although the minimum age requirement to work in Iraq is 15, laws are not evenly enforced. Additionally, while forced labor and sexual exploitation of children are prohibited, there are no laws prohibiting human trafficking. Adding to the problem, children are only required to be in school for six years. This would typically end their education at age 12. This makes children age 12 to 15 especially at risk for exploitation since they are often out of school but cannot work legally.
  6. Problems such as poverty, lack of education and a shortage of economic opportunities increase child labor. Children living in rural areas are more likely to work than those living in cities due to the stark divide in poverty levels. About 39 percent of people living in rural areas in Iraq live in poverty while only 16 percent of urban dwellers are impoverished. Poverty is a driving factor behind child labor, as impoverished parents often need income from their children so the family can get by.
  7. Sexual exploitation is also one of the worst forms of child labor. In some parts of Iraq, girls are used as “gifts” to settle disputes between tribes. Additionally, growing poverty has increased the number of parents force girls into marriages. At least 5 percent of girls in Iraq are married before the age of 15. In regions controlled by ISIS, the terrorist group runs markets in which captured girls and women are sold as sex slaves. Yezidi women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation, facing capture and trafficking by ISIS fighters. Gender-based discrimination also contributes to the problem of the sexual exploitation of young girls.
  8. The worst forms of child labor can have physical and psychological effects on children. Because children are still developing, children risk stunted growth and physical atrophy as well as behavioral issues from performing physical labor. Performing hard labor in industries such as agriculture also involves working with dangerous equipment, carrying overly heavy loads and working with dangerous chemicals and pesticides. Being exposed to violence and cruelty as a young child can also result in psychological problems. Spending time at work instead of with their peers can also result in delayed social development, depression and isolation.
  9. Iraq has made efforts to get rid of child labor. It has opened 80 schools in West Mosul and created educational opportunities for Syrian refuges children. This has resulted in 60,000 more children attending school. Iraq has also created new policies meant to address child labor through education and social services. These include the creation of informal education programs, subsidies for law oncome families so that children do not have to work and shelters for human trafficking victims.
  10. Organizations such as UNICEF have been working with the Iraqi government to protect children and keep them in school. UNICEF is striving to expand access to schools and increase the quality of education within Iraq. The agency has provided e-learning for children in areas without schools and assisted the Iraqi government with the Accelerated Learning Programme for children who have missed school. UNICEF continues to work with Iraq to improve the quality of education within the country. Together, they are making revisions to curriculums and materials and extended training for teachers. Additionally, the organization calls for the strengthening of institutions meant to protect children. It wants to increase case management and other services meant to serve children and combat social norms that prevent children and their families from seeking help.

The ILO has declared that the long-term solution to child labor “lies in sustained economic growth leading to social progress, in particular, poverty alleviation and universal education.” This means that the U.S. has an opportunity to end child labor in Iraq through poverty-reducing measures. Currently, 80 percent of U.S. aid to Iraq goes to military assistance, with only 20 percent used to address humanitarian needs.

These 10 facts about child labor in Iraq demonstrate that an increase in aid focused on poverty-reduction and education could change the lives of thousands of children. By reducing poverty, there is a stronger chance of reducing child labor.

Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr