IRAQ: The increase of child labor in Kurdistan during COVID-19

By Noor Ali

The number of children and adolescents at risk of falling into poverty and losing their rights has doubled from one to two out of every five children or 40% of all children. Other factors for the growth of poverty are unemployment, continuing financial pressure on families, and loss of access to schools and health services.

While the poverty rate in the Kurdistan Region reaches about 12%, it was low by about 4%, but it increased due to the circumstances represented by the Corona pandemic, the economic crisis, and the repercussions of ISIS.

The Effect of Family Unemployment on Children

We find in the Kurdistan Region that unemployment rates increased to more than 20%, compared to 18% in 2019, and this is attributed to the fact that the rise in unemployment came due to the financial crisis in the region and the weakness of the private sector institutions in providing job opportunities, especially in light of the quarantine imposed by Covid-19. As a result, many children were forced to drop out of school due to poverty to work to support their families.

The Children of Iraqi Kurdistan Are Facing a Tragic Situation Due To the Corona Pandemic

One of the 13-year-old boys selling locally made misbaha said that he “does not want to stay inside the house without doing anything, and he sees his family looking for daily food for him and his brothers.”

He is one of the hundreds, if not thousands, working across the Kurdish regions to help their families or to survive in conjunction with the empty coffers of the Iraqi government as a result of the collapse of oil prices, the economic crisis, and the pandemic that has caused chaos around the world.

While the 11-year-old boy Ahmed from Salah ad Din province sells plastic bags in the heart of Sulaymaniyah province to provide daily sustenance for his destitute mother and sister, he is a vivid example of the impact and repercussions of the Coronavirus on children in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Role of the Regional Government to Reduce This Phenomenon

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of the Kurdistan Regional Government held a workshop in Erbil to deal with street children’s issues, during which a “draft plan of action” was approved.

The Director-General of the Directorate of Education in Erbil, Bashdar Abdul-Khaleq, said in a statement, “His administration was unable to conduct any research on children who left schools or organize awareness campaigns to urge parents to return their children to schools as a result of the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, as all schools in the region have closed since February/2020 to combat the outbreak of the disease.

Abdul-Khaleq added in a press statement, “Although primary education up to the ninth grade is considered mandatory by the Ministry of Education of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the ministry prefers to play an advisory role.

The local security authorities must implement legal measures against families who do not send their children to school, but the poor economic conditions in Kurdistan have seriously authorized the security forces to implement legal measures.”

While the activist Derakhshan Muhammad in the Kurdish non-governmental organization Kurdistan Save the Children, which was founded in 1991, told the British website that they “have been working on child labor and street children issues since 2007, and this year they formed the Child Protection Committee in cooperation with the police.”

She stated that “the closure measures of Covid-19 did not enable them to conduct a survey about children absent from school and street children,” adding that “they were looking at local markets, and they took legal action against parents who force their children to work or beg.”

While the psychiatrist, Maysoon Waheed, stated, “The era of the Coronavirus created many big problems that affect families and children, such as poverty, child labor, and high unemployment rates, which amounted to approximately 18% in the region.”

She added, “Child labor has far-reaching repercussions on the social, psychological, educational and health aspects of children, given that working children deal directly with different types of adults.”

According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits children from “performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education.”

According to the Kurdistan Regional Government laws, “children under 15 years of age are completely prohibited from working.”

Nevertheless, NGOs have warned that poverty and high unemployment rates will mean that many will have no other choice.

The Effects of This Phenomenon on Children

Children often have a negative impact as a result of their work at this age. It is worth noting that child labor is not always due to economic reasons but rather to the presence of other social issues such as the social class to which the child belongs, including children’s injuries with physical violations such as wounds, fractures, burns, dizziness, exhaustion, and psychological violations Such as disturbing dreams, excessive fear, physical abuse to the child such as corporal punishment, bad emotional treatment such as belittling, blame, rejection, verbal attacks, nasty remarks, and humiliation.

Also, physical neglect, such as not providing them with adequate and adequate food, in addition to shelter, clothing, medical treatment, and the loss of skills and educational qualifications, thus perpetuating their lives of misery and poverty.

In Order To Treat This Phenomenon

The process of combating the causes of the spread of child labor must be carried out to unite efforts of all state agencies to protect children from this phenomenon and provide them with assistance and enable children to have a decent life and the right to education, and so forth.

This report was produced with the support of JDH/JHR – Journalists for Human Rights and Global Affairs in Canada.

This story was originally published here

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