Child labourers at dried fish sector work with health risks
After early demise of his father, minor boy Kaiser who just crossed 12 years, had to start work with his mother and elder brother at a dried fish processing village at Cox's Bazar area.
This misfortune has forced him and his elder brother Kawsar(14) to stop going to school. The helpless brothers started working at the Najirartek dry fish processing village of the district.
"After my father's death, my mother provided all sorts of efforts to bear the expenses for our livelihood and education. But all her efforts failed. At last, she joined a dried fish processing unit at the village.
But her income was not enough for maintaining our five-member family," said Kaiser, who is from Moheskhali Upazila under the district.
He said they had no alternative-so they stopped going to school and started working as labourers.
"Now, my elder brother, I and my mother work in the dried fish processing unit from 7am to 6pm everyday and earn Taka 300 to Taka 350 each daily," Kaisar, also a brother of two sisters, said with tearful eyes.
The boy further said he and his brother are facing different health related problems for working in the processing unit. "We have to work in the unit from early morning to evening under the sun.
Moreover, we cannot sleep at night smoothly due to pain in hands. Sometime, I and my brother go to the doctor for medicine, but most of the time, we can't take proper treatment due to lack of money," he added.
The eventual involvement of Kaiser and his brother in dried fish processing unit depicts the country's grimy scenario of child labours' engagement in the dried fish sector (DFS).
Another minor Md Riaz Uddin, 12, is also working at another dried fish processing unit at the Najirartek village. He had to take the burden of his six-member family on his tiny shoulder as his father's income was not enough for bearing all the family expenses.
Like Kaiser and Riaz, many children drop out from schools, for their involvement at dried fish sector in the country, although there is no latest data about the number of child labourers working in dried fish sector.
As per the Child Labor Improvement in Bangladesh (CLIMB) project under the US based WINROCK International, around 2,900 children are working at the six dried fish villages in Cox's Bazar Sadar and Moheshkhali upazila, and 20 percent of the total workforce are children.
The villages are Thakurtala, Ghotibhanga, Khurushkul, Chowfoldondi, Sonadia and Najirartek.
As per the CLIMB, around 2,800 children are working only at Cox's Bazar's Najirartek village, the largest dried fish producing village in the country as well as in South Asia.
Civic Engagement and Capacity Development Specialist of the CLMB project Md Tanvir Sharif said, despite many successes of the government and national and international organizations in various labour intensive sectors, child labour in DFS still requires more attention as it is one of the worst forms of child labour.
"Children working in this sector are exposed to hazardous chemicals, saline water for hours and work in adverse working condition. They work for more than nine hours in hazardous environment without any protective gear.
And as such, they experience skin diseases and respiratory problems. More importantly, the children have less attendance in schools," he added.
Inspector General of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments Shib Nath Roy said, the government is making its best efforts to eliminate hazardous child labour from the country by 2021 to ensure rights of children to build a healthy nation.
He said out of the 38 hazardous sectors, the government is putting special emphasis on eight hazardous sectors in the current year.
"We are also thinking of including the child labour in dry fish sector in hazardous list," he added. -BSS