Child Labour and COVID-19 in Nepal​

Nepal ratified most of the key international conventions concerning child labour such as UN Child Rights’ Convention 1990 and Child Labour Act 1992 those prohibits Child Labour and Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL). According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) 2021 Nepal Child Labour Report, 1.1 million children are engaged in child labour. However, there is high chance that this is getting worse due to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic situation.

In February 2021, the second COVID wave hit the country badly and then the third wave came a few months later in April.. The Government of Nepal immediately imposed mobility restrictions and lock downs as cases spiked and the number of deaths kept increasing. Recently, the Ministry of Health and Population requested hospitals and health centres to assign 20% of their beds for the treatment of children infected with COVID, as the third wave of COVID-19 seems to be more harmful to children. According to the ILO report, 21,523 children were infected and 38 children lost their lives in a year during the first wave. In the second wave until now, 24,821 children have been infected and 22 children died due to COVID.

The situation for street connected children and children trapped in child labour

The pandemic has resulted in an economic crisis and many people have lost their jobs, putting urban poor and rural poor people into a terrible socio-economic condition. Children from such under privileged and vulnerable communities have been affected the most and communities fear dying of hunger as well as from COVID-19. Meanwhile, schools have been closed over the year and children are living inside their homes idly which has led to various mental health issues among the children as they are malnourished and cut off from their friends and recreational activities.

There is high chance that children from these communities are being further pushed into hidden child labour business because poorer families can’t afford education due to worsening socio-economic situation. Last year during the lockdown period, the Child Rescue Committee rescued 120 children on the streets and working in Worst Form of Child Labour, and supported their rehabilitation through Voice Of Children's shelters and reintegration programme. Many children were caught wandering street during lockdowns in search of food and relief packages.

Child Labour Action Research Innovation in South and South-eastern Asia (CLARISSA) project

Child Labour Action Research Innovation in South and South-eastern Asia (CLARISSA) is a participatory action research project co-led by Voice of Children in Nepal and ChildHope in the United Kingdom. This is a multi-country consortium programme governed by Institute of Development Studies and funded by FCDO. The aim of CLARISSA is to uncover the key drivers of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL) and develop interventions to counteract them. It is primarily focusing on the Adult Entertainment Sector (AES) in Nepal.

In the current context of the COVID-19 second wave, families are facing a tough time in managing basic food supplies as they lost their jobs. Children and families have reported that they are struggling to feed their children. Our colleagues are in regular follow up with children and families who were part of the project to ensure they have basic supplies and essential items. Together with ChildHope, we have supported 20 children and their families those who are in desperate need of food supplies. Additionally, the Voice of Children reintegration project has supported 30 urban poor families living in the Kathmandu Valley.

We ran out of our food stock, we had no other option left than starving. I was worried for my children. We are very happy to receive this food support in such a difficult time.”

“We lost our jobs, worried how to feed my children, after receiving food supplies we do not need to worry for a month. Once the lockdown will be lifted, I can re-join my work. For now, food is enough for us.”

We are coordinating with the National Child Rights Council (NCRC) to locate the children and families most in need, to link them with the Child Protection Response team. Throughout the pandemic, as a responsible organisation, we are trying our level best to support vulnerable families and provide resourcing from our end. With ChildHope, we are consistently working to address the WFCL by applying child-led and centred approaches. We are collaborating with government bodies and like-minded organisations for a collective effort. We are confident that the project will be valued as effective interventions to address the child labour and contribute towards ending the child labour by 2025.