Rescuing Children from Hazardous Work in Garbage Dumps
In Ecuador, for many years children worked in garbage dumps where they were exposed to toxic substances and the risk of physical injuries and disease. In 2007, the Government of Ecuador announced a national goal to eliminate child labor in city garbage dumps as the first form of child labor to be eradicated in the country.
Since 1998, projects funded by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) have worked to strengthen Ecuador’s national capacity to combat child labor. These projects have improved data collection on child labor, strengthened inter-institutional coordination, trained authorities on child labor laws and issues, designed and implemented awareness-raising campaigns, facilitated the incorporation of child labor into institutional agendas, created a special unit for monitoring and inspection of child labor as part of the National Child Labor Steering Committee as well as a system of community oversight, and improved access to and quality of education for out-of-school children and children at risk of dropping out of school to work.
Building upon these previous efforts, governmental, private sector, and civil society organizations undertook a collaborative and comprehensive approach to eliminating child labor in garbage dumps by conducting increased inspections for child labor in landfills. They also guaranteed access to educational, health, and recreational services. A 2008 baseline survey found about 2,000 children across the country to be working in garbage dumps. During 2010–2011, 2,160 children and adolescents who were found working in landfills were provided with a variety of services to keep them out of work and to increase life opportunities. In May 2011, the government conducted inspections across the country and found no children working in garbage dumps. Although civil society organizations assisted with the initial implementation and with linking children to relevant services, the government is now responsible for ensuring children remain out of work in landfills and has established a protocol to maintain garbage dumps without child labor by removing and assisting children or adolescents who are found working there.
Local governments are responsible for the continual monitoring of landfills to ensure that children do not return to work there. The Interagency Committee on Child Labor systematically documented the elimination of child labor in garbage dumps and developed guidelines, so the strategy could be applied to other forms of child labor in Ecuador and other countries. Furthermore, a USDOL-funded project in Peru has recently facilitated an exchange of this positive experience with government officials from Peru and Bolivia to aid in applying these strategies in these countries.
–from the U.S. Government Action Plan on Children in Adversity