DAR ES SALAAM (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – More than 12,000 children have been rescued in the past three years from gold mines in northern Tanzania, according to children’s rights groups who fear thousands more youngsters are being forced to work in hazardous conditions for a pittance.
Plan International said the children from Geita region in northern Tanzania are being identified and reintegrated back into school as part of a donor-funded initiative to clamp down on child labor involving children as young as eight.
Police, government social welfare officers and NGO workers were all involved in the mission to rescue the children.
The children’s charity Plan said thousands of boys and girls are lured to work in gold mines in northern and western Tanzania every year in the hope of a better life – but many find themselves stuck in a cycle of poverty and despair.
Their health is also put at risk by direct exposure to mercury used to process gold ore and girls often end up selling sex which exposes them to the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
Tanzania has laws prohibiting child labor in gold mines but critics say the government has not done enough to stop small, illegal mines from exploiting children.
Jorgen Haldorsen, Plan’s country director, said the rescues were part of an 800,000 euro ($892,000) project launched in 2012 by the European Union to curb child exploitation in Tanzania, where government statistics show almost 70 percent of almost 50 million people live under the poverty line.
Since 2012 a total of 12,187 children aged between eight and 16 have been withdrawn from working in gold mines in Geita and Nyang’hwale districts in the north of the east African country, figures released this month have revealed.
WORK TO SURVIVE
One child recently rescued from a mine, 13-year-old Antonia Benedict, said she had to quit school after her mother died in 2013 to work crushing gold ore in Geita.
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