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COVID-19 Crisis Aggravates Child Labour

By Andrew Magombo

Lilongwe, June 16, Mana: Key findings in a recent report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UNICEF indicate that global progress against child labour in member states including Malawi has stalled for the first time in two decades as over 160 million children are being victimized representing a worldwide of 1 to 10 ratio.

According to the report, COVID-19 crisis is likely to push an additional nine million children into child labour by the end of 2022 unless mitigation measures as agreed by member states are taken into account.

The alarming revelations were made public on Wednesday at Bingu International Convergence Centre in Lilongwe during the national commemoration of World Day Against Child Labour under the theme “Act Now: End Child Labour!”

Deputy Minister of Labour, Vera Kamtukule, called for a multi-sectoral approach in dealing with child labour in Malawi amidst the COVID-19 pandemic arguing that her Ministry cannot suffice to fight alone.

“Even though we have policies and structures in place, the figures are hitting above one million which is not a good thing. Flamboyant policies without action are nothing so everyone has to take an active role in ending child labour.

Flamboyant policies without action are nothing-Vera Kamtukule

“Currently, our prevalence rate in rural areas is at 14% which is three times higher than the urban rate. We ask our stakeholders to enhance communication by feeding people with information which can help eradicate child labour particularly amidst the pandemic,” she said.

When quizzed in an interview on how the Ministry intends to implement strategies considering the low funding from the 2020/2021 fiscal year, Kamtukule said despite such a setback, they will engage alternative ways to consolidate execution of plans.

“Despite having inadequate resources, we are going to empower our District and Regional labour offices to expedite child labour inspection activities. Wherever we have gaps, we will seek help from our developmental partners including the UN and ILO,” she said.

United Nations Resident Coordinator, Jose Maria Torres, said Malawi is facing immense challenges as 38 percent of children between ages of five to 17 are involved in child labour, amounting to 2.1 million children, more than half of whom are engaged in hazardous work.

However, she made an assurance that the United Nations is ready to support Malawi and local partners in accelerating action to eliminate child labour in line with the country’s international commitments.

“Much of the work being done by the UN Country Team in Malawi is directly or indirectly supporting the Government and other partners to address child labour challenges.

“UNICEF, FAO, UNODC and ILO are responding to child labour in Malawi by supporting access to basic services, strengthening national child protection systems and promoting social change which in turn addresses children’s access to education and sustainable reduction of child labour in agriculture and human trafficking,” she said.

This year’s World Day Against Child Labour commemoration has coincided with Day of the African Child whose ceremony has been presided over by State President Lazarus Chakwera in Mangochi.

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