By Nsunjo Erica
The UNICEF said recent years have seen significant progress in the fight against child labor but the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, can potentially escalate the positive trends observed in several countries.
The organization added that child labor could be on the rise in all countries but its greater impact is expected to be most damaging for children in the poorest countries, and in the poorest neighborhoods, and for those in already disadvantaged or vulnerable situations.
COVID-19 saw the immediate loss of jobs by several families which are now less able to afford basics, including food and water, less likely to access health care or education, children from such homes are more at risk of violence, exploitation, and abuse.
For the billion people living in slums, lockdowns have crippled livelihoods, following the loss of jobs, low levels of income pushing families deeper into poverty, with poverty come child labor as households use every available means to survive.
Business closure also escalated unemployment amongst parents, many had to hunt for alternative sources of income, and in families with a variety of children feeding was close to impossible and in turn, child labor became an alternative.
According to UNICEF, compared to adults, children are more likely to accept work for less pay and in vulnerable conditions. Businesses may deliberately recruit children to cut costs and boost earnings.
The COVID-19 pandemic surged poverty and increased the inevitability to opt for loans by families, however, formal and informal credit options were unavailable, families turned to child labor as a way to access credit.
The inevitable worldwide closure of schools has affected a number of children and youth, they have turned into burdens to their parents in homes, this has forced many parents to impose labor engagement on to their children.
The rising number of deaths from COVID-19 is trailed by growing numbers of children left without one or both parents as well as other caregivers such as grandparents. Children deprived of family care are particularly vulnerable to child labor, trafficking, and other forms of exploitation.
According to the UNICEF, governments have taken substantive recent steps to improve social assistance in ways that diminish child labor and mitigate the COVID-19 crisis for children. Past evidence illustrates that cash transfers to poor households reduce child labor and are especially valuable in helping households cope with economic shocks.
A report from UNICEF estimated that over 463 million children lack the equipment or electronic access to pursue distance learning amidst the closure of learning institutions.
The UN report is based on data gathered from roughly 100 countries, measuring a lack of public access to the internet, television, and radio in these countries.
The UN also estimated that 1.5 billion children worldwide have been affected by lockdowns or school closings following the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The sheer number of children whose education was completely disrupted for months on end is a global education emergency,” Henrietta Fore, executive director of the UN Children’s Fund, said in a statement.
Henrietta Fore, executive director of the UN Children’s Fund added that the repercussions of continued school closure could be felt in economies and societies for decades to come.
According to the report from UNICEF, there is a gaping geographical difference in children’s access to distance education, with far fewer affected in Europe, for example, than in Africa or parts of Asia.
The UN estimated that about 67 million children in eastern and southern Africa are unable to access virtual education, 54 million in western and central Africa, 80 million in the Pacific, and East Asia.
The report further estimated over 37 million in the Middle East and North Africa, 147 million in South Asia, and 13 million in Latin America and the Caribbean among students around the world unable to access virtual education.