The International Labor Organization (ILO) reports children caught in conflict and natural disasters are most at risk of child labor and of falling prey to trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse. To mark the World Day Against Child Labor, the ILO is calling on governments to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.

The world is facing its greatest refugee and displacement crisis, with more than 65 million people forcibly displaced by war and persecution. Children are among those most at risk of exploitation from the breakdown of family and social systems, the loss of homes, schools, and livelihoods.

The ILO reports an estimated 168 million children are in child labor globally, including 85 million engaged in the worst forms of child labor. This includes the use of children who work in slave-like conditions, in hazardous work, such as mining and agriculture, and in the use of children in combat or as prostitutes.

The ILO reports child labor is most prevalent in Asia and Africa.

ILO Senior Technical Officer on Crisis and Fragile Situations Insaf Nizam told VOA children are particularly abused in situations of conflict in Africa, where many are recruited as child soldiers by armed groups in conflicts such as Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

“We also have seen certain armed groups using children for extreme types of violence as suicide bombers or forcibly recruiting them as brides and for sexual slavery.  So, the types of violations against children have increased in diversity,” he said.

Nizam said children also are recruited as soldiers and suffer other forms of exploitation in conflicts in Asia and the Middle East.  But he noted in countries such as the Philippines and Myanmar in eastern Asia, children run greater risks from natural disasters.

“You get a lot of displacement of children.  Families lose their livelihoods.  Their community networks are lost.  They are displaced.  Communities become poor overnight.  They lose their sources of income.  Schools are either damaged or destroyed due to natural disasters.  So, there children are pushed easily because of that,” he said.

Nizam said conflicts tend to grab world attention more quickly than natural disasters.  This, he said, is especially true of slow onset disasters, such as drought, climate change and floods.  

He added these situations are as harmful as conflicts to children, who are easily exploited by nefarious people.

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