Climate change is pushing children in the Global South into ever more dangerous forms of child labour and exploitation, a new report by Terre des Hommes has warned.
The report reveals how climate change and environmental degradation in Nepal, India, Burkina Faso, Peru and Nicaragua is forcing children to swap either safer work or not working at all for extremely hazardous employment conditions, such as in mineral mines or brick kilns.
Children working in these environments risk developing respiratory problems due to inhalation of dust and toxic gases, which also damage their digestive, immune and central nervous systems. Being killed in explosions or collapsing mine shafts is also a risk, as is illness and injury caused by carrying heavy loads for prolonged periods.
Terre des Hommes Secretary General Ignacio Packer said:
“Climate change is fuelling this surge in child exploitation – forcing kids to swap the safety of the classroom for the toxic gas of the goldmine. The international community must join the dots between climate change and exploitative child labour, and merge efforts to combat both these social scourges.”
This movement towards extremely hazardous forms of child labour is fuelled by climate change. Drought, heavy rain and other extreme weather is destroying farmland in the countries studied. This forces families to migrate and send their children to work in hazardous conditions to support the household, and sabotages children’s education by interrupting their schooling and making them prioritise employment instead.
It is imperative that international efforts aimed at tackling exploitative child labour also address environmental factors as root causes of that exploitation. Any projects designed to end exploitative child labour or adapt to a changing climate should also more closely integrate their work.
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Notes to Editors:
• The report, ‘The Neglected Link: Effects of climate change and environmental degradation on child labour’, was compiled using desk reviews from UN agencies, civil society organisations and academic research, as well as interviews with Terre des Hommes staff, partner organisations and children affected by child labour and climate change issues.
• Six case studies of Terre des Hommes and partner organisation projects were used, as well as 34 case studies of individual children and 13 interviews with Terre des Hommes national offices and partner organisations.
• 26% of the annual 6.6 million deaths of children under-five are linked to environment-related causes and conditions, according to research by the World Health Organisation.
• According to UNICEF, over half a billion children are living in areas with extremely high levels of floods and nearly 160 million live in areas of high or extremely high droughts.
• 85 million children around the world currently engage in hazardous work, according to the International Labour Organization.