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UN Focus on Child Labor Annual Day

FILE - Peter Kihika, 16, who wants to become a teacher, weighs scavenged materials to be sold for recycling, at Kenya's largest landfill Dandora during the COVID-19 pandemic, in Nairobi, Kenya on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020.

NAIROBI — As the international community marks World Day Against Child Labor, the United Nations says efforts to tackle child labor over the last three decades have demonstrated that issue can be eliminated if the root causes are addressed.

The U.N. says crises, conflicts and the COVID-19 pandemic, have plunged more families into poverty forcing millions more children into child labor.

The day, observed annually on June 12, is intended to serve as a mechanism for the growing worldwide movement against practice. This year, the U.N.'s labor agency, the International Labor Organization, is emphasizing the link between social justice and child labor.

In his statement, the ILO Director-General, Gilbert Houngbo, called on the international community to step up the fight against the practice.

"What is happening with child labor is the very opposite of social justice. For the first time in 20 years, child labor is on the rise. 160 million children, almost one-in-10 worldwide, are engaged in child labor," Houngbo’s statement read.

According to the United Nations, in Africa, more than 72 million children are working, making it the highest number ever globally.

Other regions with the highest number of children in labor are Asia and the Pacific, which account for 7% of all children at work.

Houngbo said the practice can be eliminated in member states by supporting the fight for the rights of children. The U.N. says 56% of all those in child labor, at least 84 million children, live in middle-income countries. An additional 2 million live in high-income countries.

"The antidote to poverty-driven child labor is decent work for adults, so they can support their families and send their children to school, not to work," Houngbo said. He added that decent work "means ending forced labor, creating safe and healthy workplaces, and letting workers organize and voice their needs. It means ending discrimination – because child labor often affects marginalized groups."

VOA reporter Maureen Ojiambo compiled this report.