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Press release

Efforts to end child labour must focus on education

NEW YORK/GENEVA, 10 June 2005 – Ensuring access to quality basic education is critical for removing children from hazardous labour, UNICEF said today.

An estimated 246 million children are engaged in child labour, with nearly 70 percent of them (about 171 million) working in hazardous conditions, including working in mines and quarries, working with chemicals and pesticides or with dangerous machinery.

“Children as young as five are forced to spend long hours doing back-breaking labor, often in harsh weather and without access to health care,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said Friday, in advance of World Day Against Child Labour on Sunday. “Children mining rock, gold, coal, diamonds and precious metals in Africa, Asia and South America are at constant risk of dying on the job, being injured or becoming chronically ill.”

Instead, children should be getting a quality education, which offers their best chance of escaping a life of poverty and hardship, Veneman said.

Today, UNICEF is joining the International Labor Organization (ILO) in a specific call to prevent and eliminate child labour in mines and quarries, considered one of the worst forms of child labour. The ILO estimates that one million children worldwide work in small-scale mining and quarrying, a number that is rising in some parts of the world. In addition to facing safety and health risks from lifting heavy loads, children working in rock quarries inhale hazardous dust and particles and use dangerous tools and crushing equipment.

Working with governments, UNICEF is piloting projects throughout the world designed to make it possible for children to be removed from hazardous labour and enrolled in school.

For example:

  • In Bangladesh, UNICEF helped establish centers that provide schooling, recreational activities and health services for girls who had been chipping bricks with their mothers. A key component of the program entails persuading parents to support the education of girls and to recognize the future benefits of training them in such things as technology.
  • In Morocco, UNICEF has helped to remove hundreds of children from exploitative work in the ceramics, carpet weaving and leather industries. In an initiative backed by their former employers and the local government, the children are enrolled in NGO-run centers that provide health services, recreation, vocational training and community-based education.
  • In Burkina Faso, UNICEF and partners led a project in three gold mining areas to educate families and communities on the dangers of child mining, resulting in the removal of 150 children. Families were offered a package of interventions including income-generating alternatives, skills training and basic education.

UNICEF works in these and other countries affected by child labour to build a protective environment for children – a safety net that is created when governments and all members of society work together to protect children from all forms of exploitation.

At the international level, UNICEF continues to advocate for the ratification and implementation of ILO Convention No. 182, which aims to eliminate the worst forms of child labour.

“We must end exploitation of children in the workplace,” Veneman said. “Getting more children into school is our best defense against child labour today and for the next generation.”


For further information please contact:
Allison Hickling, UNICEF Media, New York : (+1-212) 326-7224,




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