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COTE D'IVOIRE: Child exploitation rises with poverty

ABIDJAN, 21 December 2009 (IRIN) - Sharply rising poverty is causing exploitative child labour to increase says NGO Save the Children in its report “It’s there it’s difficult: exploitative child labour in Côte d’Ivoire,” launched today.

It is estimated that one quarter of all children work in Côte d’Ivoire and eight out of 10 of them are exploited according to the government. Harmful activities include sex work, cutting down trees, burning fields, climbing trees to collect palm oil, carrying heavy loads, working as unpaid domestics or market vendors far from their families.

With a deteriorating economy and shrinking government services, more of these children end up working, says Save the Children. Country-wide the number of people living on less than US$1.25 a day has risen from 10 percent in 1985 to 49 percent in 2008, according to the World Bank.

Most children forced to sell sex to survive in Abidjan told local NGO Cavoequiva they were brought to the capital by relatives or family friends. Côte d’Ivoire, alongside many West African countries, has a long-standing practice of families sending their children to relatives in towns to be schooled or find work or apprenticeships. 

Save the Children’s child protection adviser Mark Canavera told IRIN: “The practice of relatives taking care of children or using children for light, legitimate labour have changed and become more exploitative as poverty increases.”

The report studies child labour practices in 18 Montagnes region in the west and in the Adjamé neighbourhood of Abidjan.

Rural risks

In 18 Montagnes – the country’s primary cocoa-producing area – children have traditionally helped their families in the fields, partly as a means of learning how to farm, says Save the Children.

But with rural poverty increasing and cocoa prices still relatively low, farmers have to produce more to survive and are forcing children to work longer hours, the report says.

In Doutrou village, 50km from Man, capital of 18 Montagnes region, village chief Kucsa Benoila told IRIN: “When we returned to start planting we all had to work twice as hard…even now our cocoa plantations are not yet up and running again.”

Recommendations

Local NGOs have called on international NGOS and the government to set up more care centres to support children forced to live and work on the streets.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Save the Children recently completed a study to identify the strengths and weaknesses in Côte d’Ivoire’s protection infrastructure.

Some existing government services could be extended to working children, the report suggests, such as the accelerated learning programme for children and youths whose schooling was interrupted by conflict.

Building up a wider child protective system involves improving practical services – such as medical help and care centres – economic support, for instance giving micro-credit loans to farmers, and building up the legal system, said Save the Children’s Canavera, who points out that the Ministry of Families must involve other ministries.

Thus far, he said the employment and justice ministries are “showing some interest”.

aj/pt

Theme (s): Aid Policy, Children, Economy, Gender Issues, Migration, Urban Risk,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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