Urgent action needed to stop child labour in Africa

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Urgent action is needed to address child labour in Africa’s agriculture sector, participants heard at a regional conference hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) today.

Latest estimates show there are more children in child labour in Sub-Saharan Africa (86.6 million) than in the rest of the world combined, and the vast majority, four out of every five children, are engaged in child labour within the agriculture sector. Root causes include household poverty, limited access to quality education, inadequate labour-saving technologies, and traditional attitudes towards children’s participation in agriculture.

“We need zero child labour in agriculture to achieve zero hunger, and we need to act now,” said FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa Abebe Haile-Gabriel in his opening remarks at today’s event. He noted that “climate change, inequality and poverty continue to pose challenges to rural livelihoods where child labour is often used as a negative coping mechanism,” and urged greater leadership from agricultural stakeholders across Africa to accelerate action.

“There is no justification whatsoever for having millions of African children in child labour,” said Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, ILO Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa. “It is unacceptable that this number is likely to go up due to COVID-19. It is untenable that half of these children are in hazardous work that puts their safety, health and sometimes their lives at risk. It is indefensible that almost a third of them don’t go to school. Child labour is a grave problem that requires us to take drastic action,” she said.

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