MUNTAKA CHASANT
PEOPLE & STORIES
feature image

Urbanization And Child Labour

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise, Into the living sea of waking dreams, Where there is neither sense of life nor joys, But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems; John clare, i am Cities in the global south are urbanizing rapidly. This comes with a dark side — urban poverty. What are the […]

May 7, 2020

Child labour: A 15 years old boy (Emmanuel Osei) engaged in hazardous work is sifting dirt from rusty nails and other small metals before selling them at around $0.15 per kilo at Agbogbloshie, Ghana. An estimated 152 children worldwide between 5 and 17 years are in child labour. 62% of all children in hazardous child labour are boys, according to ILO statistics. © 2020 Muntaka Chasant

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise, Into the living sea of waking dreams, Where there is neither sense of life nor joys, But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems; John clare, i am Cities in the global south are urbanizing rapidly. This comes with a dark side — urban poverty. What are the […]

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise, Into the living sea of waking dreams, Where there is neither sense of life nor joys, But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;

John clare, i am

Cities in the global south are urbanizing rapidly. This comes with a dark side — urban poverty.

What are the implications for the millions of children in urban slums and informal settlements who are forgotten and cut-off from social services?

Traditionally, urban children are seen as being better off than their rural peers. For the many, that is not far-fetched. But millions of children worldwide are living in situations of extreme poverty, with UNICEF estimating in 2018 that the poorest urban children are twice as unlikely to have access to basic sanitation than urban children from wealthy households.

Due to high housing prices, a large number of households who move to urban areas often take up residence in socioeconomically deprived areas or live in hazardous informal settlements, either in the center or on the periphery of cities.

Millions of children growing up in urban slums, for instance, lack access to good healthcare, education, basic sanitation, and security.

These dynamics and other factors push many urban children to fend for themselves in a cold, harsh urban environment, making them vulnerable to hazardous child labour.

That’s the story of Emmanuel Osei Yaw and the other children engaged in hazardous child labour on this page.

Child Labour in Toxic Environments

For food, clothes, and the expectations to contribute to their household economy, Emmanuel Osei and the other children spend their waking life navigating this toxic landscape, using their bare hands to process e-waste and scrap metals.

Living on the edge of society has taught them to endure hardship, but the toll this may be exacting on them could be deep and lifelong.

Accumulation of anthropogenic heavy metals in the soil is widespread throughout the Agbogbloshie area due to decades of informal and primitive e-waste recycling.

Scavenging for scrap metals, handpicking pieces of metals in contaminated soil, and using their bare hands to break apart e-waste expose them to toxic materials such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, nickel, mercury, and chromium.

Exposure to lead for instance is known to impair brain development in children, including reduced IQ, hyperactivity, and visuospatial skills.

The minimum age for hazardous work in Ghana is 18, according to Section 91 of Ghana’s Children’s Act (560).

I have documented the hazardous child labour situation at Agbogbloshie. See the links below for more details and photos.

Children of Agbogbloshie: Malik, Adama and Twum

Urban Outcasts: Children of Agbogbloshie

See hazardous child labour at Agbogbloshie and a missing child found through this article.

Child Labour: Akufo-Addo is an 8-year-old urban poor and engaged in hazardous child labour at Agbogbloshie, Ghana. Children working in hazardous environments at Agbogbloshie are exposed to heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, chromium, and mercury. Roughly around 19 million children worldwide below the age of 12 years are in hazardous child labour, according to the ILO. © 2020 Muntaka Chasant

Child Labour in Ghana: Meet 8-Year-Old ‘Akufo-Addo’

This 8-year-old nicknamed after Ghana’s president is engaged in hazardous child labour on the margins of Accra, Ghana. See how he navigates the underside of Agbogbloshie.


Hazardous Child Labour at Agbogbloshie

Osei and some of the other children engaged in hazardous child labour ran luck with some dirt, rusty nails, crown cork bottle caps, and a mixture of other small metals.

He’s separating the dirt from the metals before they are weighed and sold.

Scrap metals at Agbogbloshie sold for GH₵0.80 ($0.15) per kilo in May 2020.

Urban poor children and the Future

Two-thirds of the world’s population is projected to live in cities by 2030. What does the future look like for poor urban children? Bright? Gloom? Does the photo below capture this uncertainty?

Don’t forget to leave your comment below to join the conversation.

© 2020 Muntaka Chasant

Leave a comment below to join the conversation

PHOTOS ON MUNTAKA.COM ARE COPYRIGHTED (THOSE THAT ARE NOT UNDER MUNTAKA CHASAN'TS NAME ARE CLEARLY INDICATED). DO NOT COPY OR REUSE WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF MUNTAKA CHASANT.