Global health and child labour

Global health has always been on the agenda of Health In Action: from health inequity in slums in the Philippines to the health issues of local refugees. Ho Po Shan and Chun Wai, two board members of Health In Action, visited Chittagong (the second largest city in Bangladesh) and Dhaka (the capital of Bangladesh) from 10 March to 18 March this year. Through visiting different non-profit organizations in Bangladesh, they acquired deeper understandings of the education and health situations of child labourers there.

In Chittagong, they visited an organization called Charulata, which is located in a slum next to a railway near the centre of Chittagong. The mission of Charulata is to provide free basic education to children in the slum and child labourers, and its daily operation is managed by a group of university students with support from teachers and students of different universities, including medical faculties.

Children working in fish market in Bangladesh.
Children working in fish market in Bangladesh.

Po Shan and Chun Wai also visited another organization, Monabik, in rural village of Chittagong. Monabik was set up by a group of people working in the business community. This organization also shares the same mission with Charulata, and it also has the support from local university students.

Afterwards, they visited an organization in Dhaka called Amerada Pathshala. Similar to Charulata and Monabik, this organization also provides free basic education to children in slums and child labourers. However, it is supported by a foundation managed by various professions including writers, photographers, doctors, university professors and musicians.

According to the information published by UNICEF in 2015, over 1 million child labourers in Bangladesh were aged between 10 to 14. According some unofficial statistics, the number of child labourers aged from 4 to 15 reached 5 million. However, the daily wages earned by a child labourer is only HK$2.50. In order to alleviate the financial difficulties of their family, most of these child labourers have to work in terrible environment, which severely hinders their physical and mental development.

HIA board members Chun Wai and Po Shan with Charulata Board Members and students.
HIA board members Chun Wai and Po Shan with Charulata Board Members and students.

Offering basic education for the child labourer in slums is a very important task, as it could allow them to acquire appropriate elementary education and not to become illiterate, which is crucial for their future health and development. Most of the children cherish their learning opportunities and enjoy classes, even though the teaching environment is very poor.

To child labourers and children living in poverty, health is an important issue to address and should not be neglected. These children are facing a number of poverty-associated health problems, including malnutrition, dental and eye problems, etc. In addition, poor working environment induces other health related problems. For example, skin diseases, physical developmental problems, tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases could be manifested during the working processes of fish processing, seafood delivery, mud-bricks and shoes production. These situations are concerning.

Owing to resource constraints, the local organisations are unable to take actions even though they realize the health problems among these groups of children. In view of this, Health In Action will continue to pay close attention to the health problems of child labourers and children living in poverty in Bangladesh. We hope to motivate and mobilize more humanitarian efforts to improve the health situations of these vulnerable groups.

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