The novel coronavirus pandemic is making children more vulnerable to become victims of exploitation schemes, according to multiple organizations and child advocates.
“The biggest threat is that millions of children may fall back into slavery, trafficking, child labour, child marriage,” Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian advocate who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for his efforts to combat child slavery and trafficking, told Reuters.
The coronavirus pandemic has triggered or exacerbated economic crises around the world, adding pressure on families to send their children to work, as many schools remain closed. A report by the International Labour Organization found the pandemic’s economic and social impact “will hit children particularly hard.”
It is likely to worsen key factors that are linked to child labor, including “poverty, limited access to decent work opportunities for those of legal working age, social marginalization, discrimination (…) and weak social dialogue.”
Last week, the executive director of the U.N.’s children’s agency, Henrietta Fore, had similarly warned “closing schools for prolonged periods of time can have devastating consequences for children.”
Fore urged governments worldwide to prioritize schools in their reopening plans, warning that children may otherwise “become more exposed to physical and emotional violence.”
“Their mental health is affected. They are more vulnerable to child labor and sexual abuse, and are less likely to break out of the cycle of poverty,” Fore said, according to a transcript.