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Forced Child Begging
In many impoverished countries, especially Greece, India and Senegal, forced child begging is prominent. This practice means that parents or another group of adults will send children out on the streets to beg for money from tourists. With the COVID-19 virus, tourism has decreased drastically. This means that these children no longer have anyone to beg from, which is both good and bad. Child begging is very damaging to the children forced into it, but it is also how many families suffering from extreme poverty sustain themselves. Here’s what the impact of COVID-19 means for both child beggars and their families.

The Problem

Forced-begging is incredibly damaging for children. Not only does it put them in dangerous situations and leave them vulnerable to abuse, but it also keeps them out of school. If a child is being forced to beg by an adult who is not their parent, it can lead to them being separated from their families. Since this practice involves child trafficking, it is hard to record exactly how many children are victims of forced begging, and very little data exists on the issue.

While data in forced begging is almost non-existent, data on general child labor is more plentiful. Forced-begging takes place primarily in impoverished countries. In fact, child labor in general is overwhelmingly a sign of a poor country. According to data published by the United Nations Children’s Fund, in the world’s poorest countries, just over one in four children is involved in child labor. While this statistic may look bleak, it also means that if these countries were to become more developed, child labor would likely become drastically less prevalent.

An Unfortunate Necessity

Forced begging is also how many families keep themselves fed. In the era of COVID-19, child beggars face a number of hardships. First, they are at risk of catching the disease. These children spend much of the day on the crowded streets where they are exposed to many people and their risk of contracting the virus is higher. Second, there is hardly anyone left to beg from. According to data published by the World Tourism Organization, the change in international tourism in April 2020 was -97%. These families have lost a major source of their income, in a time when their country’s economy is likely struggling, especially if that economy relied heavily on tourism.

Solutions

The human rights organization Anti-Slavery has been fighting to end forced child begging for almost a decade. The organization works specifically to end forced child begging in Senegal, where child begging is commonly perpetuated through Koranic schools, where students’ schoolmasters will often require that the children beg. The organization has been working to get the government of Senegal to recognize how drastic the problem of forced child begging is, and to take action to prevent it.

Making sure that education is available to child beggars is also a vital step in getting these children off the streets. The World Bank has been working to support Senegal’s government in its efforts to improve education and bring education to poorer areas.

The drop in tourism hurting the forced child begging industry is both a positive and a negative; it could leave families without income, but it could allow child beggars a chance to get an education and stay off the streets. However, this outcome is only possible if education is available. When the tourism industry begins to grow again, it is vital that these children don’t return to the streets.

Sophia Gardner
Photo: Flickr

Covid-19 Crisis
The COVID-19 crisis or coronavirus pandemic continues to grow as the number of global cases rises. With U.S. President Donald Trump approving a fiscal stimulus package of $2.2 trillion, the dire economic ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis grow more significant. Yet, there are disproportionate economic impacts on the world’s poor that highlight the implications of COVID-19 on global poverty.

What the COVID-19 Crisis Means for Global Poverty

Unfortunately, the aftershocks of COVID-19 will destabilize the world economy even further during the beginning of 2020 and beyond. The Asian Development Bank already estimates that the collective global impact of the COVID-19 crisis will be between $77 billion to nearly $347 billion in economic output costs worldwide.

The World Economic Forum calls the COVID-19 crisis a “pandemic in the age of inequality” as it especially impacts countries lacking universal health care or adequate health care systems. Many workers have lost work and are cannot even take paid sick leave of any kind.

“[I] fear hunger will kill us before coronavirus,’’ says Momanned Sabir, a young street entrepreneur in Delhi who owns a yogurt-based drink shop. Her words come in response to the three-week lockdown that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed. Poverty and unemployment impact many daily wage earners and workers in informal and unorganized sectors. This is particularly evident in nationwide lockdowns from India, China, the Philippines, the Middle East and European countries.

Among the 50 countries under the United Nations’ Least-Developed Country Status (LDC), more than 900 million remain vulnerable to the risk of COVID-19. This is due to the poor health care infrastructure and resources to support a large-scale health crisis. Most importantly, many countries continue to be in short supply of testing kits.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed for $2 billion to help the world’s poor who have been impacted by COVID-19. World Health Organization director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus implores G20 nations to offer aid and support low and middle-income countries.

Future Course of Action

Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharamn has proposed an economic stimulus package for financial relief to women and vulnerable groups. For example, there are welfare systems that distribute free gas cylinders, wheat and rice for up to three months. For women in India’s Jan Dhan banking system, the government offers compensation of 500 rupees for the next three months. In addition, India has issued a bailout package of $22 billion to help cushion the economic impacts of its lockdown, especially as several daily wage and unorganized workers have lost out on work and pay during this period.

The number of testing kits will also increase soon due to the invention of a new working test kit by Dr. Minal Dhakave Bhosale. India will thus rely less on more expensive imported kits. There will be a distribution of more than 100,000 kits every week from now on.

Moreover, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has provided $50 billion to control the COVID-19 crisis in low-income countries that seek support through its emergency financing facilities. Along with the IMF, the World Bank is also providing debt relief to poor countries through loans and grants. The group is also working with more than 35 countries to address the economic implications of the pandemic. The World Bank also plans to spend a whopping $160 billion over the next 15 months and is already securing fixed amounts for wide-scale mitigation efforts and projects.

Oxfam International is working on ways to use its knowledge and expertise in public health to better address the ongoing crisis, especially after its work during other outbreaks like Ebola and the Zika virus. Oxfam is also assisting in the delivery of sanitation services and offering accurate information to people.

Looking to the Future

To help those who have lost jobs due to COVID-19, the Asian Development Bank recommends focusing on strengthening social assistance. It also urges attention to upgrading labor market policies and programs.

The COVID-19 crisis could also impact the way the world addresses global poverty going forward, especially given the potential global impacts. It will take long-term development strategies to get low-income workers and poorer communities back on their feet.

Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Flickr