Human Rights Watch Reports on Child Labor in Tanzania

Children in Makunduchi VillageHuman Rights Watch has released a report on the situation of child laborers in gold mines in Tanzania. The report details the hazards children face working in the mines, and calls on the international community and the Tanzanian government to end the practice.

According to the 96-page report, thousands of children as young as eight years old work in Tanzania’s gold mines, toiling in underground pits for up to 24 hours at a time. Children carry heavy loads and operate dangerous equipment, risking injury or death. Often they breathe in toxic mercury fumes, exposure to which can cause long-term health problems, including brain damage. Additionally, young girls working in or near mines often face sexual abuse and exploitation.

Teachers interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that school performance decreases when a mine opens nearby, and children often skip class to work at the mine.

One boy, working at a mine in the town of Geita, told an interviewer that “It is difficult to combine mining and school. I don’t get time to go through tutoring. I wonder about the mine, it distracts me… One day… I fell sick . I had pain all over my body.”

The Tanzanian government has vowed to end child labor in mines, but according to report, it is not doing enough.

“On paper, Tanzania has strong laws prohibiting child labor in mining, but the government has done far too little to enforce them,” says Janine Morna, a Human Rights Watch researcher.

The report calls for the government and international donors to expand secondary schools and vocational training to steer children away from mines. It also calls for the gold industry to be held responsible for ensuring that it does not benefit from child labor.

The full Human Rights Watch report can be read here.

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Written by Carla Drumhiller Smith