The Southern African Development Community (SADC) on Saturday called for urgent measures to end child labor which has increased due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stergomena Lawrence-Tax, executive secretary of the 16-country regional bloc, said it was sad that as other parts of the world were making progress against child labor, Sub-Saharan Africa was lagging behind.

“The situation in our region requires greater resolve and action as a matter of urgency given that situation of children, especially those already in child labor, is now even more precarious due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said in a statement on World Day Against Child Labor.

Lawrence-Tax called on SADC member states to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on children by continuing to implement appropriate relief measures and interventions targeting the poor and vulnerable people, particularly children who are more disproportionately affected.

She urged member states to provide adequate social security including cash transfers and food handouts as these remain critical interventions for many families.

“At the same time, education policies need to be sufficiently responsive to the plight of children, especially those from poor families whose capacity to meet basic schooling requirements such as school fees has been undermined,” she said.

The SADC executive noted that as a result of COVID-19, many people have lost incomes forcing their children to seek labor to supplement family incomes.

The latest International Labor Organization/UNICEF global report shows that progress to end child labor has stalled, with Sub Saharan Africa recording an additional 16.6 million children in child labor in the last four years, while the estimated global figures increased from 152 million to 160 million.

“This year’s World Day Against Child Labor should remind all of us, from governments to individual community actors at grassroots level, of our collective responsibility to safeguard the wellbeing of children by taking decisive and practical actions to end child labor,” she said.

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