Poverty and hunger - The reality of Child Labour in Bangladesh in the context of COVID-19

Child labour in Bangladesh

The Bangladesh government is aiming at eradicating child labour by 2025. Currently, 3.45 million children, between the ages of 5-17, engage in child labour, working in different sectors. Poverty-stricken families engage children in work to provide food for their families so that they don't starve to death.

There are many reasons why children engage in leather work besides poverty such as limited access to social protection, lack of education and awareness, social norms and expectations, and less opportunities for safe and decent jobs. Children are engaged in different types of work including transportation, tea plantations, mines, the shrimp and dry-fish industries, the leather industry, factories, shops and commercial establishments, and domestic worker.

Grambangla Unnayan Committee (Grambangla) is a national level NGO that works for the elimination of child labour from hazardous work sector in Bangladesh. Together with ChildHope, we are working on the CLARISSA project, which aims at finding the drivers of the Worst Form of Child Labour (WFCL). This research project generates evidences about children living hand to mouth who engage in the WFCL.

The COVID-19 pandemic and our response

On-going restrictions and lockdowns have significantly affected the economy of the country. As a result, millions of marginalised community members are left with very little or no income. “It is difficult to arrange even one meal a day" - is the common response of many of the children who lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Most of them have borrowed money to meet their living expenses.

Throughout the pandemic, Grambangla and ChildHope have taken additional actions to support the children that we work with who are trapped in child labour. Together, we took the initiative to support children and their families for entire month who were in dire need of food in Hazaribagh. Food and emergency supplies were distributed amongst 65 waste picker children, enough to support their entire families at Matuail waste dumpsite in Dhaka. Ready-cooked meals were served to 40 street Children at Barishal river terminal. These street children were reported as fasting for days because they do not have any work due to lockdown and cannot afford food. Grambangla also provided their contact number to those underprivileged people to contact in case of emergency. Grambangla is also providing mental health support to children in need.

Every child has the right to basic needs. On this International Day of Child Labour, we promise a world for children with zero hunger ensuring their good health and well-being.

By Rumana Afroz Srabony and Ali Azman, Grambangla Unnayan Commitee