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15 May 2009
Today, on the UN International Day of the Family (Friday), international development charity EveryChild is warning that the global recession is leading to more children being abandoned, trafficked and exploited across the world. As food becomes scarcer, parents face unemployment and families become desperate, children are leaving their homes and schools to find work. Some children are migrating away from families, some are trafficked and many are abandoned into orphanages. At the same time governments are cutting their already limited support for child care and child protection services.
Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of EveryChild says:
‘At a time of chronic food shortages and economic decline, failure to incorporate child protection systems into international development policies has left millions of children vulnerable to abandonment and exploitation. The situation will be compounded further by governments cutting back on already-limited budgets set aside for child care services. Family bonds are under strain with children increasingly being abandoned into children’s homes, forced to grow up alone on the streets or becoming enslaved into child labour and prostitution.’
EveryChild country offices around the world are reporting some early indicators of the impact of the global recession on the separation of children from their families. These include:
In Malawi, where one in five children have lost one or both parents to AIDS, rising food prices are leading to more people migrating to find work, leaving even more children behind to be taken care of by older siblings or grandparents. As a last resort many elderly relatives will place children in their care into local orphanages in the desperate hope that they will at least be fed there.
Smart Namagonya, EveryChild’s Malawi Country Director said:
‘Past economic crisis have resulted in real suffering for children in Malawi and not only from malnutrition. When there are food shortages children are much more at risk of dropping out of school to go to work instead. During the food crisis in 2002 over 500,000 children dropped out of school. Dropping out of school leads to more children leaving home to seek work in the cities.’
In southern India unemployment in the cities is leading to vast numbers of migrant workers returning to rural communities penniless and unemployed. More children are likely to be sold into bonded labour by families as a last, desperate attempt at survival. Loans worth as little as £400 can lead to the permanent enslavement of children as young as six in fields and factories.
In Cambodia 40% of government factories were closed between January and April 2009. This has led to 70,000 people becoming unemployed. EveryChild Cambodia has reported a sudden hike in the number of children being removed from school to work in agriculture and there are reports of big increases in the number of street children in urban areas. These children are highly vulnerable to being trafficked.
Even newly-emerging economies, which only a short time ago were enjoying growing prosperity, are seeing their economic fortunes now reversed. In Ukraine this is threatening family bonds with reports of a revival of the institutional child care system that dates back to the country’s Soviet era. More than 260,000 people have lost their jobs in the last three months alone. Unemployment and a steep rise in living costs are leading to an increased number of desperate families abandoning their children to children's homes.
There are already almost 30,000 children living in 'orphanages' despite 95% of them having at least one living parent. The damaging implications of growing up in an institution are well known; many will end up in prison, involved with drugs and prostitution and frequently go on to abandon their own children.
Volodymyr Kuzminskyy, Country Director of EveryChild Ukraine said:
‘Alarmingly, in eastern and central Ukraine some private children’s homes are appealing to poor families and vulnerable single mothers to give up their children as a way to ensure that they are fed and clothed. More must be done to support these vulnerable families to look after their own children. This recession could undermine years of hard fought for reforms of our child care and family support services.’
EveryChild is calling on governments to take immediate action to keep families together and protect children who have already been separated from their families. EveryChild is urging governments to endorse the new UN guidelines for the appropriate use and conditions for alternative care for children. These guidelines are intended to enhance the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Negotiations are currently underway in Geneva on the adoption of the guidelines and international children’s NGOs are hoping they will be adopted in time for the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in November 2009.