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MOZAMBIQUE: Warning on AIDS risk for child labour

JOHANNESBURG, 24 July 2001 (PlusNews) - UNICEF warned on Monday that child labourers in Mozambique were at a high risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and said it would encourage the government to find ways to stop child labour. UNICEF’s Child Protection Officer, Victoria Perschler-Desai, told IRIN that children under the age of 15 were working as prostitutes, farm labourers and hawkers in cities and towns in the southeast of the country. “We found young children working everywhere in the 7 out of 10 provinces where we conducted our research,” she said. The problem was especially common along the Beira corridor, which links Zimbabwe to the port of Beira and the capital Maputo. Perschler-Desai said that Beira was one of Mozambique’s most affected cities and “the risk there is very high”. Few employment opportunities, poverty and the liberalisation of the economy are some of the reasons for the child labour problem in the country. Perschler-Desai told IRIN that UNICEF would be holding workshops and meetings with the labour ministry on Wednesday and Thursday to outline a draft plan of action to address the problem. A UNICEF report launched in June entitled ‘Listening to the Children: Child Workers in the Shadow of AIDS’, revealed the layers of interlinked child rights violated by both HIV/AIDS and child labour. The rights to health, to education, to freedom from poverty and to freedom from all forms of exploitation and abuse were all compromised. The study was carried out by national research teams that included staff from national and local organisations and, in some cases, former child workers. According to the report, the danger of HIV/AIDS is ever present for vulnerable working children. Young prostitutes in Mozambique have to choose between being paid US $1.50 for sex with a condom, or US $6 for sex without. One child said she did not require her clients to use condoms because she wanted the money, so “I let them do what they want”.

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