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Child labor swells for first time in two decades

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UN says Child labor swells for first time in two decades. The world has marked the first ascent in child labor in two decades and the coronavirus crisis threatens to push millions more youngsters toward a similar fate, the United Nations said Thursday.

In a joint report, the International Labor Organization and the UN children’s agency UNICEF said the number in child labor stood at 160 million at the start of 2020 – an increase of 8.4 million out of four years.

The climb began before the pandemic hit and marks a dramatic reversal of a downward trend that had seen child labor numbers contract by 94 million between year 2000 and 2016, it said.

Just as the Covid-19 crisis was beginning to pick up steam, almost one of every 10 children globally were stuck in child labor, with sub-Saharan Africa the worst affected.

While the percentage of children in child labor remained equivalent to in 2016, population growth meant that the numbers rose significantly.

And the pandemic risks worsening the situation significantly, the agencies said.

They warned that except if urgent action is taken to help ballooning numbers of families diving into poverty, almost 50 million more children could be forced into child labor over the next two years.

Losing ground

“We are losing ground in the fight to end child labor,” UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore told reporters, stressing that “the Covid-19 crisis is aggravating a bad situation.”

“Now, well into a second year of global lockdowns, school closures, economic disruptions, and contracting national budgets, families are forced to settle on heart-breaking decisions.”

On the off chance that the latest projections of poverty increases because of the pandemic materialize, another 9,000,000 children will be pushed into child labor by the end of 2022, the report said.

But statistic modeling shows that number could potentially be more than five times higher, according to UNICEF statistics specialist Claudia Cappa, who co-authored the report.

“On the off chance that social protection coverage slips from the current levels… as a result of austerity measures and other factors, the number of children falling into child labor can go up (an additional) 46 million” by the end of next year, she told AFP.

The report, which is published every four years, showed that children aged between five and 11 accounted for over half of the global figure.

Hazardous work

Boys were significantly more liable to be affected, accounting for 97 of the 160 million children toiling in child labor at the start of 2020.

But the gender hole narrows by half when household chores performed for at least 21 hours per week are counted, the report said.

Particularly concerning, perhaps, was the significant increase seen in children between the ages of five and 17 who are doing so-called hazardous work, which is deemed to affect a child’s development, education or health.

This can include toiling in dangerous industries, such as mining or with heavy machinery, and working for more than 43 hours per week, which makes tutoring next to impossible.

An entire 79 million children were considered to be accomplishing such hazardous work at the start of 2020, up 6.5 million from four years earlier, the report showed.

The study revealed that most child labor is concentrated in the agriculture sector, which accounts for 70 percent of the global total, or 112 million children.

Some 20 percent of child labor in the interim happens in the service sector and around 10 percent in industry, it found.

Reminder

The greatest increase in child labor was seen in sub-Saharan Africa, where population growth, recurrent emergencies, extreme poverty and inadequate social protection measures pushed an additional 16.6 million children into child labor since 2016, the report found.

Almost a quarter of children aged five to 17 years old in sub-Saharan Africa are already in child labor, compared to 2.3 percent in Europe and North America.

The UN agencies warned that additional economic shocks and school closures caused by the Covid crisis meant that children already in child labor may be working longer hours and under worsening conditions.

And many more risk being forced into the worst forms of child labor because of job and income losses among vulnerable families, the report said.

“The new estimates are a reminder,” ILO chief Guy Ryder said in a statement.

“We cannot stand by while another generation of children is put at risk,” he said, stressing that “we are at a pivotal moment and much depends on how we respond.”

“This is a time for renewed commitment and energy to turn the corner and break the pattern of poverty and child labor.”

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With 9,056 fresh infections, Moscow Covid cases soar to pandemic high

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New coronavirus infections hit a pandemic high in Moscow on Monday, tripling in just weeks and forcing Russia’s capital to close its Euro fan zone and extend other curbs.

Some 9,056 new cases were recorded in the megapolis of 12 million in the past 24 hours, up from 3,000 fourteen days ago and another every day record since the Covid-19 pandemic began in mid 2020, according to official statistics.

Faced with the spike, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, who has been rolling out restrictions for almost seven days, said that the city would limit gatherings and close the Euro 2020 fan zone outside of the Luzhniki stadium.

“I didn’t want to do this, but we have to,” Sergei Sobyanin wrote on his website.

“Starting today, we will limit mass events to a maximum of 1,000 people.”

“We are temporarily stopping all mass entertainment events and we’ll also have to close ballrooms and fan zones,” he wrote.

The move came a day after he warned that the city was facing another wave of infections, likely because of new Covid variants.

“It’s tripling, there’s an enormous powerful that we have not seen during the previous waves,” he said, adding that cases jumped from 3,000 to 7,000 in just days and predicting they would pass the 9,000 mark on Friday.

Over the past week, the mayor has introduced a progression of new restrictions in an effort to contain the wave of infections, including declaring a “work-free” week, shutting settings, and ordering mandatory vaccinations of people working in the service industry in the city.

Also on Friday, Sobyanin extended until June 29 a few measures that were announced last weekend, similar to the closure of food corridors in shopping centers, zoos, playgrounds, and the closure of bars and restaurants between 11:00 pm and 6:00 am.

Curbs tightened in Euro host St Pete –

Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg, the country’s worst Covid hotspot after Moscow, is hosting seven Euro 2020 matches – including a quarter-final – and is expected to see thousands of football fans from Europe.

On Monday, Saint Petersburg also announced a tightening of restrictions, including no food deals in its fan zones.

The increase in cases in Russia comes as the country struggles to encourage Russians to get vaccinated, despite the fact that the country launched a mass campaign of free jabs in December and has developed and approved four vaccines – Sputnik V, EpiVacCorona, CoviVac and the one-portion Sputnik Light.

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Chinese, Indian workers among 11 killed in Nepal floods; 25 missing

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Landslides and flash floods triggered by heavy downpour across Nepal this week killed 11 people including one Indian and two Chinese workers at a development project, while 25 people were missing elsewhere, officials said on Friday.

The bodies of the three workers were recovered close to the town of Melamchi in Sindhupalchowk district, northeast of Kathmandu, which was hit by flash floods on Wednesday that also forced many people from their homes, district administrators said in a statement.

“The foreign nationals were working for a Chinese organization that is building a drinking water project,” district official Baburam Khanal told Reuters.

The Home Ministry said late on Thursday that 25 people were missing in floods in Sindhupalchowk, a mountainous district bordering the Tibet region of China, and other parts of the country.

The monsoon downpours, which normally begin in June and last until September, kill hundreds of people in mostly mountainous Nepal every year.

Heavy downpour since Tuesday have damaged roads, destroyed bridges, washed away fish ranches and livestock, and wrecked homes.

Hundreds of people have been forced to move to community shelters, including schools, sheds and tents, authorities said.

Aid agencies said the crisis this year could add to the social and economic troubles of a country hard hit by COVID-19. Nepal has been reporting among the highest coronavirus test positivity rates in the world.

“Those who have lost homes are resting in community centers,” said John Jordan of the U.S.- based charity World Neighbors.

“This forced density raises risks for a community that has been recovering from COVID-19.”

Israel to send 1 million Covid vaccine dosages to Palestinians

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Courts cannot appoint PM, says Nepal PM KP Oli as he defends dissolution of House of Representatives

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Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli on Thursday defended his government’s controversial decision to dissolve the House of Representatives and told the Supreme Court that it isn’t up to the legal executive to appoint a premier as it cannot undertake the legislative and the executive functions of the state, according to a media report.

President Bidya Devi Bhandari, at the recommendation of Prime Minister KP Oli, dissolved the House for the second time in five months on May 22 and announced snap elections on November 12 and November 19.

Prime Minister Oli is heading a minority government after losing a trust vote in the House.

In his written response to the Supreme Court, Oli said that it isn’t up to the legal executive to appoint a Prime Minister as it cannot undertake the legislative and the executive functions of the state.

The Supreme Court on June 9 issued a show-cause notice to the Office of the Prime Minister and the President’s Office to outfit a written response within 15 days.

The Apex Court received Oli’s response by means of the Office of the Attorney General on Thursday, The Himalayan Times reported.

“The Court’s duty is to interpret the Constitution and the existing laws, it cannot assume the part of the legislative or the executive bodies,” Oli said.

“Appointment of a Prime Minister is absolutely a political and an executive process,” the 69-year-old embattled leader underlined.

The Prime Minister also defended the involvement of the President in this entire issue, saying that Article 76 of the Constitution grants the sole right to appoint a Prime Minister to the President only.

“According to Article 76 (5), there is no such provision of a person acquiring or losing a vote of confidence in the House being examined by the legislative or the legal executive,” he said.

Upwards of 30 writ petitions, including by the Opposition partnership, have been filed in the Supreme Court against the dissolution of the House, which they said was “unconstitutional”.

The Supreme Court has started hearing on the case. Regular hearings on the case will resume from June 23.

Nepal plunged into a political crisis on December 20 last year after President Bhandari dissolved the House and announced fresh elections on April 30 and May 10 at the recommendation of Prime Minister Oli, amidst a tussle for power within the decision Nepal Communist Party (NCP).

In February, the pinnacle court reinstated the dissolved House of Representatives, in a setback to embattled Prime Minister Oli who was preparing for snap polls.

Oli repeatedly defended his transition to dissolve the House of Representatives, saying some leaders of his party were attempting to form a “equal government”.

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