The Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the adverse economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is pushing children into exploitative and dangerous child labour in Ghana.

In a report released ahead of the June 12 World Day against Child Labour, the human rights organisation called on the Ghanaian government and donors to prioritise cash allowances to families to protect children’s rights.

The report, I Must Work to Eat: Covid-19, Poverty, and Child Labour in Ghana, Nepal, and Uganda, was co-published with Friends of the Nation in Ghana and Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER) in Uganda.

It examines the rise in child labour and poverty during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the pandemic’s impact on children’s rights.

Children described working long, grueling hours for little pay after their parents lost jobs or income due to the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns.

Researchers interviewed 81 working children, some as young as eight, in the three countries.

In Ghana, Friends of the Nation interviewed 24 children between the ages of 11 and 17 who worked at gold mines, in carpentry, fishing, by transporting goods, and selling items on the street.

‘The pandemic has hit Ghanaian families hard, forcing many children into exploitative work’, Programme Coordinator for Friends of the Nation, Solomon Ampofo, said.

‘The government should increase cash assistance to families to prevent further increases in poverty and child labour’.

Nearly all of the Ghanaian children interviewed said that the pandemic had negatively affected their family income, with many, according to the report, entering the workforce for the first time to support their families.

Some said they decided to work because their families [did not] have enough food. A 16-year-old Ghanaian boy told Friends of the Nation that his mother, a trader, no longer made enough money to support him and his siblings.

Between 2000 and 2016, the number of children in child labour across the world decreased by approximately 38 percent or 94 million, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

In Ghana, the decrease in child labour was due to the launch of the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) cash transfer programme by the government.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced many children to join the workforces to help their families survive.

‘For many families with children, government assistance has been far too little to help them meet their basic needs’, said Human Rights Watch’s Children Rights Advocacy Director, Jo Becker.

Becker called on Ghana and its donors to scale up cash allowances to families to help keep children out of exploitation and support their return to school.

Source: Human Rights Watch

Photo source: International Labour Organisation

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