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Child Labor in DjiboutiLocated on the Horn of Africa along the Bab el-Mandeb, an important maritime chokepoint is the small African nation of Djibouti. With a population of one million but high levels of poverty and limited funding for social welfare programs, child labor in Djibouti has been widespread historically. However, efforts from the government and international actors over recent years have started to reverse this phenomenon.

The Nation of Djibouti

According to Humanium, an NGO focused on protecting children’s rights across the globe, 42% of Djibouti’s population lives in extreme poverty. Child labor is primarily caused by extreme poverty, as parents force their children to work so that they can survive. Therefore, Djibouti’s children are some of the most vulnerable to child labor due to poverty throughout the nation.

As a result of their families’ financial situation, over 12% of children ages 5-14 work. Working can isolate children socially or prevent them from having the time to pursue their academic interests. Only 60-65% of children complete primary education in Djibouti. With many children unable to obtain an education due to work or other circumstances, child labor in Djibouti perpetuates the cycle of poverty generation after generation.

Government Efforts Toward Child Labor

Djibouti’s government has taken an active role over the past decade in reducing child labor. The active role is shown through establishing workgroups and various programs focused on identifying the contributing factors of child labor. One of the main projects is the Anti-Trafficking Working Group, which has improved cross-agency government collaboration to counteract human trafficking. The Prime Minister leads the National Council for Children in its efforts to secure birth certificates for immigrants, ensure education for refugees and reunify separated migrant families. Furthermore, the Council successfully established a temporary shelter for children living on the street in 2018. Therefore, it made these at-risk kids less likely to be coerced into child labor. The government established the National Family Solidarity program to decrease child labor. They supported Djiboutian households in extreme poverty via cash transfers. These programs represent a start to ending child labor in Djibouti, something that future leaders of Djibouti can continue to prioritize.

Despite the government’s efforts, various legal loopholes remain that benefit those who exploit child labor. Many of the statutes only apply to children working in the formal business sector. Therefore, Djibouti’s laws are less comprehensive than international standards. This is especially problematic because most child labor cases occur in the informal business sector. Some examples are working in small shops, selling items on the street and working in family-owned businesses in rural communities. Without true legislative changes, Djibouti’s laws will continue to fail in identifying and eliminating most child labor cases.

Additionally, there were only five labor law inspectors in Djibouti as of 2018. This means that Djibouti’s labor force of almost 300,000 has approximately one labor law inspector for every 60,000 workers. Without the resources or personnel necessary to expose and eradicate child labor, child labor will continue. This brings harm to Djibouti’s long-run humanitarian situation, living conditions and economic growth.

International Support

Yet, despite the shortcomings so far to end child labor in Djibouti, UN-sponsored efforts and aid from various countries/NGOs, present an optimistic future. UNICEF currently works with the government of Djibouti, the United States and the Humanitarian Action for Children Project to increase access to education for the most vulnerable Djiboutian children (orphans and those in poorer areas). This program has helped over 4,500 children obtain pre-primary, primary or secondary education in Djibouti. The U.S. government has also funded a $500,000 program to train law enforcement and expand communication capabilities between the private and public sectors, regarding ending forced labor/human trafficking. Finally, the World Bank oversees numerous programs that deal with the root causes of poverty and child labor in Djibouti by promoting human capital development and education.

Cooperation and a Promising Future

Going forward, it will be pivotal for the government to continue focusing on lowering the extreme poverty rate. Reforming legislation to meet international standards, then enforcing it as well as protecting children of all ages and backgrounds, is the next step in Djibouti’s fight against child labor. Improving human rights means better access to education. This will likely help the economic situation of Djibouti by breaking the cycle of poverty. However, the international community plays a crucial role in helping Djibouti. Some of the most successful initiatives have come from international partnerships and UN-sponsored programs. Cooperation is critical in Djibouti, whereas complacency will be catastrophic.

– Alex Berman
Photo: Flickr

Left-Behind ChildrenChina has undergone swift urbanization and development in recent years. However, reaping the rewards of this progress has not been easy for everyone. In search of better job opportunities, millions of Chinese parents in poverty have left their communities in hopes of creating a better future for their children. However, these parents must leave their children behind to do so. These left-behind children (LBC) may remain with a caregiver, family member, friend or institution, or they can be left entirely on their own.

There are about 70 million left-behind children in China, and they experience many effects of poverty. The average ages of LBC range from 6 to 17. While LBC are more prominent in rural China, the number of LBC has risen in urban areas as well. As a result, many children in China are mentally and physically ill, don’t receive a proper education and are essentially stuck in the cycle of poverty. Parental absence contributes to all of these factors.

Poor Quality of Education

While their parents seek more money in the city, left-behind children are left in inadequate school buildings with limited supplies and ill-prepared teachers. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Lijiah Zhang, an author and journalist who examines China’s left-behind children, stressed that education is the largest problem these children face. “Without their parents, the children are more likely to lose interest in their studies and sometimes drop out of school, the opposite of what their parents hope for,” she said. Indeed, over 13% of left-behind children drop out by the eighth grade. Another reason for dropouts is the household responsibilities some left-behind children must take on, such as agricultural work, which leaves them with no time for academics.

For those who do continue their education, the quality is waning. With teachers lacking incentives and resources, education is a large obstacle for LBC. Educators hired for rural teaching positions are often fresh out of training and possess little teaching experience to offer a proper education. But because they are cheaper to pay, schools that lack funding hire them constantly. The staff is overworked and tremendously underpaid, with some rural educators working over 12 hours a day. This poor teaching quality combined with cramped classrooms and a lack of technology sets rural children up for failure.

High Dropout Rates

Left-behind children dropping out of school perpetuates cyclical poverty. China’s economic expansion over the past 40 years has brought about 800 million people out of poverty, but it has also widened the gap between rural and urban communities. Families in poverty continue to struggle with money, and the number of parents deciding to leave children behind is rising. These children are stuck living with the effects of poverty, and with no parental guidance, they have little means of digging their way out.

Zhang stated that many LBC feel powerless in their situations, which leads to them losing interest in their schooling and dropping out, thus reducing their chances of climbing the employment ladder. Because of the difference in economic opportunities between rural and urban communities, poor children remain poor while the rich stay rich.

Lack of Safety and Health

Because left-behind children do not have parents to protect or guide them, they are more vulnerable to abuse. Forms of abuse include harassment from peers and guardians, sexual abuse and criminality. For example, in 2015 a teacher was sentenced to life in prison for raping 12 of his students, 11 of whom were left-behind children. Many children also experience extremely long walks to and from their schools, some of which take multiple hours. This leaves them alone and vulnerable to anyone passing by.

Living without parental guidance also takes a mental and physical toll on children. Left-behind children are much more likely than non-LBC to have depression, anxiety and behavioral issues due to parental absence. They are also more likely to suffer from chronic loneliness. In a survey of six Chinese provinces, 25% of LBC reported high levels of loneliness, which can worsen mental and physical health. While parental migration offers a chance at economic improvement, child development often deteriorates.

The diets of left-behind children are often also insufficient. According to a 2015 study, left-behind boys consumed more fat and less protein in their diets. This puts them at an increased risk for obesity and stunted growth. Zhang said: “I think the LBC’s diet is worse than non-LBC. Their guardians, usually their grandparents, are mostly very frugal. They also don’t have any idea about healthy diet or nutrition.” Limited nutrition can lead to poor school performance in addition to long-term health risks.

Helping Left-Behind Children

This crisis is well-known, and many organizations are working to aid these millions of children. Save the Children, OneSky and Humanium advocate for and offer direct assistance to left-behind children. So far, Save the Children has helped 310,000 vulnerable Chinese children. Specifically, it provides educational improvements and services to keep them from harm. UNICEF also offers services to LBC in multiple Chinese provinces, including social and emotional development and health administration. UNICEF continues to initiate projects to help these children.

Each year, millions of Chinese children suffer without their parents. The mental and physical health consequences along with the inadequate education they face make their everyday lives an uphill battle. Humanitarian assistance helps thousands of these children, but the causes underlying the crisis continue challenge poverty eradication. 

– Radley Tan
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in Uganda

Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa whose central location makes it an important destination for trade and tourism. However, large economic disparities and high unemployment levels have led to a rise in the crime of human trafficking. Inadequate funding of law enforcement units and high levels of poverty make the general population of Uganda vulnerable to human trafficking, including children. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Uganda.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Uganda

  1. Sex trafficking: According to the United States Bureau of International Labor Affairs, children in Uganda are subjected to the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sex trafficking. Minors from the Karamoja region are trafficked to Kampala and other large urban areas where demand for child labor and sex slavery is high. Children from neighboring countries such as South Sudan, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are also exploited in forced agricultural labor and sex trafficking in Uganda.
  2. Education: Limited access to education makes children particularly vulnerable to forced labor. The law provides free public education; however, the cost of school materials such as uniforms and writing utensils make access to education a challenge for many. In addition to the barriers to accessing education, children often experience physical and sexual abuse at school by teachers and peers.
  3. Rural areas: Children from rural areas are about three times more likely to be trafficked into child labor than city children. The child employment rate in rural areas is 34 percent while in urban areas it is 11 percent. In Kampala, only three percent of children are employed illegally, while 45 percent of children in the central region are employed.
  4. Sectors of child labor: In Uganda, child labor is broken up into four categories:
    • Industry sector: Children are forced to mine, work in quarries or make bricks.
    • Service sector: Children work in the streets selling products and collecting and selling scrap metal.
    • Agriculture sector: Children work in industries of tobacco, coffee and sugar cane.
    • Worst forms: Children are sold into commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking or forced to labor in agriculture. Sometimes minors are used for illegal activities such as smuggling and stealing as well.
  5. Lord’s Resistance Army: The “worst forms” category is mainly related to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group in northern Uganda, founded by Joseph Kony. The group has been active since 1987 and has been known to kidnap children and force girls into sex slavery. The group also trafficks boys as child soldiers and uses brainwashing techniques to ensure their loyalty. Eighty percent of the LRA members are children. From 1987 to 2009, approximately 38,000 children were kidnapped. Girls were employed as cooks and sex slaves for the LRA soldiers, while boys must learn to kill or be killed.
  6. Fighting child labor: In 2012, the government took the first steps in creating legislation to get rid of the worst forms of child labor. The Ugandan government started the National Action Plan (NAP) and created a Counter-Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) office and an inter-ministerial Task Force to organize anti-trafficking strategies.
  7. Legal work age: Ugandan law prohibits the labor of children under 12 years of age. National labor legislation forbids the involvement of children aged 12–13 in any form of employment except for light work that is supervised by an adult older than 18 years of age. “Light work” must not get in the way of the child’s education.
  8. Ensuring education: Right now children in Uganda are only required to attend school up until age 13, however, in 2016, the government passed the Children (Amendment) Act which establishes the age of 16 as the minimum age for work. The act also criminalizes the sex trafficking of children. The act is meant to encourage children to stay in school since they legally cannot work until 16 years of age.
  9. Humanium: The international non-governmental organization, Humanium, works in Uganda to combat the abuse of children’s rights. They have set out six policies that must be implemented to combat child labor. These include:
    • Education and second chance learning: These are essential for reintegrating adults into society who have been harmed through forced child labor.
    • Expand social protection: Serve to prevent vulnerable households from having to resort to child labor to support their families.
    • Promote greater public awareness: Providing information on child labor can increase public outrage and support for child protective legislation.
    • Promote social mobilization against child labor.
    • Strengthen child labor inspections and monitoring.
    • Advocacy of political commitment: This is essential to ensure that child labor reduction policies occur.
  10. The Human Trafficking Institute: The Human Trafficking Institute is working closely with the Ugandan government. So far they have approved the creation of a specialized Human Trafficking Department in the Ugandan police force. The department is supposed to have over 250 staff members as well as specialized human trafficking officers posted across the country. The department will support the rehabilitation of trafficking victims and a crackdown on other forms of child labor.

– Laura Phillips-Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty In Albania
Albania, a country located east of the southern tip of Italy that borders Macedonia and Greece, remains one of the poorest countries in Europe. Despite the country’s recent economic growth, employment rates continue to stay low, the education system lacks necessary resources and a significant portion of the population remains below the poverty line. Here are seven shocking facts about poverty in Albania.

7 Shocking Facts About Poverty in Albania

  1. Poverty Rate: Thirty-four percent of Albanians live in poverty. This means they make around $2 to $5.50 per day. The current poverty rate represents a significant increase compared to 2002 when 11 percent of Albanians lived in poverty.
  2. Extreme Poverty Rate: Currently, 5.8 percent of Albanians live in extreme poverty. This means they make less than $1.90 per day. According to the World Bank, the extreme poverty rate of Albanian people has not reduced very much in recent years.
  3. Household Expenditures: The expenditures in 63 percent of Albanian households, or what they need to buy to live comfortably such as food, clothes and toiletries, are 50 percent higher than their income. In other words, over half the population cannot afford half of what it needs to live on a day-to-day basis.
  4. Albanians are Migrating: Due to the unstable political situation in Albania, the business economy is weakening, and thus, poverty is deepening. Many Albanians doubt their leaders and are looking for better opportunities regarding living conditions and employment, so many are departing the country. This number of departing citizens has grown from 44 percent in 2007 to 52 percent in 2018.
  5. The Albanian Unemployment Rate: The unemployment rate in Albania is 28.7 percent. Women make up the majority of this population which results from many factors including poor social status in the family, lack of education and limited access to jobs due to the fact that most women must maintain the house and take care of the children. However, Oxfam, an international nonprofit, works to change women’s social status in Albania by educating women about the economy as well as helping women become actors of change and decision-making.
  6. Children in Albania: One-third of the total population living in poverty in Albania, or 120,000 of those citizens, are children. Approximately 12 percent of these children have no other choice but to work in order to help their families survive. Because of this, these children lose the opportunity to obtain an education. Humanium is an organization that works to end violations of children’s rights across the world. It does so by raising awareness, providing legal assistance for children whose rights have suffered violation and supporting local projects that help children.
  7. Social Allowance: Eighty thousand households in Albania rely on a social allowance. This means they receive 8,000 lek a month from their government so that they can afford basic needs such as food and clothing. One lek is equivalent to $0.0092 U.S.

Despite the barriers, there are organizations working to end poverty in Albania such as the Zakat Foundation of America. This nonprofit is in Chicago and its mission statement is as follows: “We foster charitable giving to alleviate the immediate needs of poor communities and to establish long-term development projects that ensure individual and community growth.” The foundation does so by building schools, orphanages and health clinics within these poor communities. The organization also provides food and fresh meat to the poor and brings relief during and after disasters.

– Emily Turner
Photo: Flickr

The Iraq poverty rate has been steadily on the rise and has affected many, including children. The Iraq poverty rate increased from 16 percent in 2014 to 22.5 percent in 2016, according to Abdul Zahra al-Hindawi, the spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Planning.

The increase in poverty is due to ISIS taking control of the provinces in the north. This has caused a substantial amount of displaced people and the oil prices to spiral downward. Since oil generates a large amount of Iraq’s GDP, the economy has become incredibly stressed.

In Iraq, there are at least 800,000 people in need of food assistance and 10 million in need of humanitarian assistance.

Children are among those who have been dramatically impacted by Iraq’s economic downturn. According to UNICEF, of the three million people displaced in Iraq, half of them are children.

Schools have also been directly hurt by the turmoil in Iraq, with 138 attacks on schools within a three year period. Now half of all schools in Iraq are in need of repairs if they are to continue to function. Circumstances surrounding children in Iraq have caused over three million children to miss school on a regular basis and 1.2 million to be out of school permanently.

Children are also being targeted and killed as a method to deter families from feeling the violence and poverty occurring in Iraq. Since 2014, more than 4,650 children have been separated from their families.

Humanium recognizes the Iraq poverty rate is negatively affecting children. It works on raising awareness, providing legal assistance and supporting local projects to help children.

The Iraq poverty rate has been increasing and placing many at risk, including children. Humanium is one of many groups that are taking the initiative to step up and do something about it.

Danyel Harrigan
Photo: Flickr