Climate change leads to child exploitation

Children on the run for the effects of climate change are often forced to do dangerous and humiliating work to survive. This is how climate change indirectly effects child exploitation. That is the conclusion of a Terre des Hommes research into the connection between the two phenomena.

Humanitarian aid

Draught, heavy rainfall and floods are often associated with climate change. The impact of extreme weather conditions is now clearly visible in Nepal, India and Bangladesh: over 1200 people have lost their lives, hundreds of thousands of people are driven away from there homes and are on the run.

“Children in particular suffer from a decline in weather conditions”, says Carel Kok, director of Terre des Hommes, who witnessed the consequences first hand in Kenya. He met girls who tried to get their lives back on track after working in the sex industry.”

Seasonal migration

Especially people who live in developing countries are hit by the effects of climate change. Not only the floods in South Asia, but the draughts and even human-induced environmental pollution often exacerbate the poverty in which people live. Carel Kok: “In India, for example, we can see that the duration of seasonal labour migration has extended from three to six months due to climate change. That’s why many children work here, instead of going to school.

Sexual exploitation

A familiar image. The draught in the African Sahel causes unsuccessful harvests, which forced residents to leave their villages in search of other sources of income. In Kenya nomadic tribes are fighting over the scarce water recourses and little grassland. Families are forced to migrate to the city, where their children are vulnerable because they lack social protection and do not know the dangers of the city. The children even run the risk of being sexually exploited.

Migration as the sole strategy

"Seasonal or permanent migration seems to be the most widely used strategy by families in response to the impact of climate change.” Carel Kok summarises the main findings of the report. “In most cases we have researched, this migration increases the risk of children ending up in work situations in which they are exploited.”

Children to school

From the Terre des Hommes Report Child Labour 2017 it appears that many children, who have become victims of climate change, once on the run have to conduct dangerous work or are at risk of sexual exploitation. Political parties must take a harder stance for research into the causal link between climate change and child exploitation, so that officials of the relevant policy areas can work together and create targeted preventions plans. This way, children of climate refugees can return to school and not become a lost generation.

Learn more about the relationship between climate change and child exploitation >>

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