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Uganda: Covid-19, school closures & inadequate government assistance pushing children into exploitative & dangerous child labor; report

‘Governments urged to boost cash grants to end pandemic-fuelled child labour’ 26 May 2021

From brick kilns to carpet factories, COVID-19 has pushed children as young as eight years old into dangerous and abusive jobs, rights groups said on Wednesday, urging governments to roll out cash allowances to reduce child labour. Human Rights Watch and advocacy organisations in Ghana, Nepal and Uganda interviewed 81 children working in often risky settings, including gold mines, fisheries and construction sites, during the coronavirus pandemic. “The most shocking finding for me was the exploitation … some children were paid in alcohol at stone quarries,” said Angella Nabwowe Kasule, programmes director for the Ugandan charity Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, which was involved in the study.

…The number of child labourers worldwide has dropped significantly to 152 million children from 246 million in 2000, but the United Nations (U.N.) fears job losses and school closures caused by the coronavirus will reverse these gains. Ghana, Nepal and Uganda have all made progress in reducing child labour in recent years and are working to eradicate it by 2025 to meet the U.N.’s global development goals. But in Ghana and Uganda, children shared stories with researchers of breathing in noxious dust at mines, carrying loaded bags of ore, using toxic mercury to extract the gold from the ore and being injured by flying rocks.

…“Governments and donors should scale up cash allowances to families to keep children out of exploitative and dangerous child labour.” Kasule added that providing free school meals to all students in Uganda could also prevent children dropping out of school and turning to dangerous employment. Solomon Kusi Ampofo, programme coordinator at the Ghanaian charity Friends of the Nation, also involved in the research, said despite the findings of the study he was hopeful because “awareness around child labour is growing”.