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Child labor increases as a result of the global food crisis

As food prices rise, many families have been forced to pull their children out of school and send them to work, simply to survive.

August 2008



While other children get ready for school, 6-year-old Sohail gets ready to toil at a gem-polishing workshop in Jaipur, India. World Vision strives to help youth like Sohail avoid dangerous labor and continue their education.
While other children get ready for school, 6-year-old Sohail gets ready to toil at a gem-polishing workshop in Jaipur, India. World Vision strives to help youth like Sohail avoid dangerous labor and continue their education.
Photo ©2008 Kit Shangpliang/World Vision
The global food crisis is not letting up. Over the past year, food prices around the world have risen in dramatic surges, forcing many to spend extra resources on food.

Yet for the world's poorest — those living on $1 to $2 per day — extra resources simply don't exist. Before the current food crisis began, many families were already forced to spend 75 percent of their income on food. Now, they cannot buy as much, and hunger and malnutrition are becoming all too familiar.

Young workers

The daily struggle for survival has a profound impact on children, who often help carry their family's financial burden by working. Instances of child labor, which occur in countries all over the world, are increasing along with food prices.

Some countries do not have laws preventing child labor, and in many, laws are not enforced. Often, children living in poverty begin working as soon as they are physically able, accepting whatever jobs they can — no matter how dangerous.


World Vision child sponsorship provides children with access to nutritious food and an education, saving them from dangerous labor and giving them a chance for a future of hope.

Worldwide, there are 218 million child laborers between the ages of 5 and 17. More than half of these children work in hazardous conditions.

Dangerous work in India

In India, well over 6,000 children work in the flourishing diamond industry, where they face eyestrain, shoulder pain, headaches, and life-threatening diseases and injuries.

Unnas is only 5 years old, but her aching fingers are covered with marks she received while working as a gem cutter to feed her family. "It's not supposed to be, but it is almost an acceptable thing for some families here," Unnas' caretaker told World Vision staff.

Children are not supposed to be exploited for cheap labor, and they are not supposed to miss critical years of schooling. Yet for hungry families, survival comes first. Education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, and World Vision is working to provide opportunities for children like Unnas and her family, so that she can attend school.

Working for food in Mongolia

Otgontuul, 14, spends 11 hours each day mining for gold with her mother in Mongolia. This is the only way the family can afford to eat.
Otgontuul, 14, spends 11 hours each day mining for gold with her mother in Mongolia. This is the only way the family can afford to eat.
Photo ©2008 Justin Douglass/World Vision

Survival has become increasingly difficult in Mongolia, where the prices of staple foods have more than doubled since 2007. The same amount of rice that once cost $0.51 (U.S.) is now $1.18, and a potato costs five times what it used to.

"Food prices increased, [and] now we buy less food," says Solongo, a single mother. She works beside her 14-year-old daughter, Otgontuul, for 11 hours every day, sifting through dirt in deep mining holes, hoping to find even a small speck of gold. If they do not find gold, the family cannot eat.

Otgontuul wishes she could attend school, but supplies cost money, and her family can only afford to send her brother. In Mongolia, an estimated 7,996 children work in the dangerous mines and don't have the opportunity for education. Many others herd livestock and sell goods. Without help, these children have little hope for the future.

What is World Vision doing?


World Vision is working in Mongolia to help the children's chance for a better future. Providing simple school supplies helps children remain in school, ensuring access to an education that prevents them from having to work for their survival at such a young age.

To many, child labor has become a way of life. And to the vulnerable families in developing countries, it may seem as though this is the only answer to the food crisis. Yet World Vision's work is helping families find other alternatives.

Tackling child labor

Sear, 13, who survived by collecting scraps to sell to a junk dealer in Cambodia, is now able to attend classes.
Sear, 13, who survived by collecting scraps to sell to a junk dealer in Cambodia, is now able to attend classes.
Photo ©2008 Sopheak Kong/World Vision

Just ask Sear, a 13-year-old who cares for her sister and ailing mother in Cambodia. Sear used to walk barefoot along the dangerous streets from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., collecting recyclable scraps that could be sold to a junk dealer. "I have to support my family's living, or we won't have food to eat," she told World Vision staff. Sending Sear to work was the only way her mother knew to survive.

But now, with the help of World Vision, Sear attends non-formal education classes and takes time to play. Her family receives food and house wares, and her mother is learning to support her family from home.

Sear's story exemplifies the positive impact of addressing the underlying causes of child labor — poverty and hunger. As the global food crisis continues, the work to provide support to children and families in desperate need becomes even more critical.

Learn more


>> Read more about the global food crisis, including its causes and effects, and what World Vision is doing to help.
>> Read an article featuring stories of families around the world affected by the food crisis and how they depend on food aid distributions for their very survival.
>> Read our child labor fact sheet and learn more about what causes child labor, how it impacts the young and vulnerable, and how World Vision is responding.

Four ways you can help

>> Please pray for children around the world who, because of the deepening food crisis, are forced to work at very young ages for their own survival. Pray that through interventions from organizations like World Vision, these children will no longer face chronic hunger and malnutrition and will experience an opportunity to return to school.
>> Act now. Contact your members of Congress and urge them to support increased funding for food aid programs to help stop child hunger worldwide.
>> Sponsor a child today. World Vision sponsorship helps ensure that a child has access to nutritious food and an education, preventing hunger and malnutrition and eliminating the need to work dangerous jobs at a young age.
>> Donate now to provide food and care for hungry children and families around the world.

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