Pandemic fuels worsening child labor crisis in Venezuela

Pandemic fuels worsening child labor crisis in Venezuela

12-year-old Moises Bracamonte knows how to prepare fertilizer and water the black beans and corn his family grows in Tachira state, western Venezuela. He says the hardest part of farm work is “breaking up the soil” to sow the seeds without a tractor or an ox.
“Why is it difficult with a pickax?” Because the pickaxe is heavy and you have to do a lot of picking if you have a lot of seeds, ”he said in an interview in the living room of his house in Cordero, a town 800 km to the southwest. of Caracas. .

With schools closed and no internet access, Moises and his 11-year-old brother Jesus help their father, also named Moises, 58, grow the food that provides their family, which they barely had. never done before the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus quarantine measures have increased the number of children in the labor market in Venezuela, according to child protection activists in the South American nation, which faces a deep economic crisis that is looming large. has worsened over the past five years.

The problem of child labor has been fueled by a massive migration of more than five million Venezuelans which has turned many children into breadwinners for their families, according to the researchers.

« [The pandemic] aggravated the risk factors of child labor, ”said Carlos Trapani, coordinator of Cecodap, a non-profit group focused on violence prevention and children’s rights. The work ranges from working in dumps to farm fields, he said, adding that children in rural areas are more likely to depend on public aid and are at greater risk of being recruited into gangs.

In 2020, at least 830,000 Venezuelan children and adolescents were living without one or both parents due to migration, according to a Cecodap report released in December.

“Sometimes there are no adults because they have left the country and the adolescents find themselves responsible for the family group,” said Leonardo Rodriguez of Casas Don Bosco, who works with disadvantaged young people.

People walk on a busy shopping street amid a spike in coronavirus disease infections that has led the government to extend lockdown measures, in Caracas, Venezuela [File: Leonardo Fernandez Viloria/Reuters]

Venezuela does not provide statistics on child labor.

The country’s information ministry and the national child protection agency IDENNA did not respond to requests for comment.

World Vision, a global Christian humanitarian organization, surveyed 420 households in Caracas and neighboring Miranda state in August 2020 to determine how the pandemic had affected the risks to children. Respondents were aged 30 and over, 71% of whom were women.

“The issues that put children at greater risk during the pandemic are associated with food shortages, increased child labor … domestic violence and neglect,” World Vision said in the study published in November.

Since the start of the pandemic, more and more children have been doing housework for other families in exchange for money or food and more of them beg and sell products such as water or cigarettes on the street, according to the study.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the United Nations International Labor Organization estimated in June that the impact of the pandemic could push more than 300,000 Latin American children and adolescents on the labor market, in addition to the 10.5 million who are already part of it.


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