Coronavirus pandemic will force region’s children into work, warns Saudi prince

Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal says the pandemic will force more youngsters into ‘undignified’ life

Saudi Prince Abdulaziz Bin Talal Al-Saud, President of the Arab Council for Childhood and Development (ACCD) and Committee Chair of the Prince Talal International Prize for Human Development. Courtesy ACCD
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Without immediate action, the coronavirus pandemic will force more children in the Arab world into workplaces even as 15 million already engage in child labour, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Abdulaziz bin Talal said on Thursday.

He said that while displacement due to fighting and instability in the region had already forced tens of thousands of children from education and into the workplace, the pandemic was likely to exacerbate the situation.

"[It] will push many families into unemployment and poverty, putting pressure on children," the prince, who heads of the Arab Council for Childhood and Development, said. "Many [children] will be forced into labour in addition to being exposed to violence, and psychological and physical abuse," he added, in a statement following the UN's World Day Against Child Labour, on June 12.
The prince cited International Labour Organisation data showing that half the population of Arab countries are classified as children and young adults and that at least 15 per cent of all children in the region are "engaged in some form of child labour."

He called on the international community to ensure that a significant portion of the new generation is not lost and urged a doubling of efforts to curb child labour in all industries.

"More alarmingly, several of our children are being forced to engage in illegal activities or street work and separated from families. That must stop,” he said. “We must restore the dignity of our children and ensure that every child in the Arab world has access to education as well as a strong support system to promote their social, physical and psychological well-being,” said the prince, who is also Committee Chair of the Prince Talal International Prize for Human Development.

“Our goal is to ensure the prohibition and eradication of child labour of all forms by 2025, and to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030, as we believe that returning children to their rightful place at schools is key to poverty alleviation and the upliftment of communities,” he added.