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Little to celebrate as ILO focuses on child labour

[South Africa] Many South Africans live in poverty IRIN
The budget included extra funds for free water and electricity for the very poor
The East African region joined the rest of the world in marking World Day Against Child Labour for the first time on Wednesday, 12 June, but the region remains far from meeting targets aimed at reducing child labour and exploitation, and at ensuring that all its children have access to education. "This first World Day Against Child Labour is intended to help spread the message that child labour remains a serious problem, and that we must do more to combat it," said ILO Director-General Juan Somavia in a statement released on Wednesday. The launching of the global day follows the recent release of an ILO report entitled, A Future Without Child Labour. According to this, about 246 million children globally (one in every six children aged between five and 17 years) are engaged in various forms of child labour, while some 179 million (one in every eight children) remain exposed to the most damaging forms of it. In East Africa, poverty is considered the biggest factor driving many children to work. The 2001 Situation Analysis of Children in Tanzania recently released by the United Nations Children's Fund painted a depressing picture, noting that while the country had maintained relative stability and improved its economic performance, this had not translated into real improvements in the lives of children. [see http://www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=27708] "Tanzania has not met 2000 targets, and is far from being on track to meet 2015 international development targets," the report stated. "Instead, virtually every critical measure of child wellbeing stagnated or declined through the 1990s." And a recent report based on a rapid assessment by the ILO in June last year found that child labour was "common" in Zanzibar, an island chain constituting a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, with prostitution, fisheries and seaweed farming among the "most hazardous" sectors involving children. The assessment had also found evidence of child labour on clove plantations in the islands, and in the hotel and tourism industry, although the levels of child labour in these sectors were classified as "moderate". In Kenya, a new government study on child labour reflects the tough economic realities which, combined with the negative effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, are causing an unprecedented rise in poverty levels among Kenyan households, according to a leading child rights activist. The 92-page document, which outlined the results of an extensive survey carried out by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) of the Ministry of Finance and Planning on the state of child labour, placed the number of children working in Kenya at any one time at 1.3 million. Of Kenya's estimated 10.9 million children aged between five and 17 in 1999 (based on 1989 population census projections), 3.5 million were out of school and/or working, according to the CBS report. Some of the 7.9 million in school were also found to be working. Children were being used as a source of cheap labour in all the sectors in which they were found. They are being made to carry heavy loads, especially in sisal estates, sand and salt harvesting, stone cutting and on horticultural farms, according to the report. Inspectors from the Ministry of Labour found that, although Kenya had no reported cases of child slavery or recruitment for armed conflict, many were engaged in both the "worst forms of employment" and "hazardous" work, characterised by harsh environments and lack of protective clothing in both the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Phillista Onyango, who heads the Kenya-based African Network for the Protection and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, told IRIN that the report confirmed preliminary findings by various establishments on the "alarming" extent to which children in Kenya were forced to work. "The key findings of the report show a large number of kids are out of school," Onyango told IRIN. "This can be explained by the poverty levels in the country. There are too many AIDS orphans." The level of family income was found to have a strong bearing on child labour, with 56.7 percent of working children belonging to households with monthly incomes of less than US $80, while 21.3 percent came from very poor households with incomes of less than $30, it said. In Uganda, child labour is also common but has been worsened by insurgent activities, mainly in western and the northern parts of the country, where, respectively, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel groups have been abducting people, including children, and forcing them into slavery as labourers, soldiers and, in the case of the LRA, for forcible sex According to a 1999 Country Report on Human Rights Practices released by the United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour in February 2000, inability to afford schooling has also correlated highly with the occurrence of child labour in rural areas, despite the government's efforts to bring primary education to all children. "Most working children are employed in the informal sector, often on the subsistence farms of extended family members or as domestic servants. In urban areas, children peddle small items on the streets, are involved in the commercial sex industry (particularly in border towns and in Kampala), or beg for money," the report noted. According to the ILO, the new global day (to be observed each year) aims at "intensifying support" for the global campaign against child labour, as well as to serve as a catalyst for enhancing the growing worldwide movement against child labour. "We are asking everyone to join together in working towards a world where no children will be deprived of a normal, healthy childhood, where parents can find decent jobs and children can go to school," Somavia said. "Our goal is a world free from child labour."

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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