Stolen Childhood - PhMuseum

Stolen Childhood

Larry Louie

2012 - Ongoing

Bangladesh; Philippines; Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines

According to the UN convention on the Rights of Children, children across the world have the right to:

- Protection (e.g., from abuse, exploitation and harmful substances)

- Provision (e.g., for education, health care and an adequate standard of living)

But for hundreds of millions of children world wide, childhood ends too soon. Many are displaced by violent conflicts. Many more are living in poverty with no access to clean water, safe shelter, healthy food let alone education and healthcare. In fact, in recent years, the prevalence of child labor has become a serious problem in many poor developing countries. Bangladesh, being one of the poorest and one of the most densely populated countries in the world; the problem of child labor is huge. It is estimated that there are 4.9 million working children between the ages of 5-15 in Bangladesh. That is 13.4% of the total work force in the country. Most of these children have no other options. Some are orphans growing up on the streets while others are forced to work due the economic hardships of their family. There is not much future for these children growing up and living in poverty and deprivation. Few will ever have the opportunity to an education or to learn skills to ensure a better life for them in the future. But just banning the use of child laborer in industries is not a permanent solution to this problem. In fact, this step is useless if the government and NGO’s do not ensure the economic and social securities of these minors. 40% of the 166 million people in Bangladesh make less then $1 a day and spend 80% of that income on food. With the rising cost of fuel and food prices, more and more children will be forced to work to help support their family and put food on the table.

Many children are also exploited, abused and displaced as a result of our conflicting world. As of January 2018, there are more than 520,000 Rohingya refugee children living in overcrowded camps in informal settlements near Cox Bazaar in Bangladesh escaping ethnic persecution in their home in Myanmar. The lucky ones will be with family members, but many others have been separated from their relatives and are essentially fending for themselves and their younger siblings on their own. The children move through the camp with eyes too old and serious for their age. The horror they have seen and endure on their journey here has ended many of their childhood dreams with stark realties. In the meantime, foreign aid has made their lives bearable in these hills, but with no long-term solution in sight and no access to education, the future looks pretty bleak for these children.

Children are the most vulnerable citizens in our world. Every child has a right to a childhood, a right to safety and protection, a right for an adequate standard of living. We still have a long ways to go to ensure these rights.

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  • Rohingya children in a refugee camp, waiting in a coral for food and daily supplies. As of January 2018, there are more than 520,000 Rohingya refugee children living in overcrowded camps in informal settlements near Cox Bazaar in Bangladesh. The lucky ones will be with family members, but many others have been separated from their relatives and are essentially fending for themselves and their younger siblings on their own.

  • Instead of going to school, these Rohingya refugee children stand in line for hours in the morning waiting for their food and daily rations.

  • A Rohingya refugee boy sitting in his tent. As these children move through their daily activities with eyes were too old and serious for their age, one can only imagine what horrors and atrocities they have seen and endured on their journey here. Their childhood abruptly ended.

  • A young boy living by the rail road track getting ready to go to work in Dhaka. In recent years, the prevalence of child labor has become a serious problem in many poor developing countries.

  • A young boy working on a machinery. Bangladesh, being one of the poorest and one of the most densely populated countries in the world; the problem of child labor is huge.

  • An 8 year old boy working in a balloon factory making less then $1 a day. It is estimated that there are 4.9 million working children between the ages of 5-15 in Bangladesh. That is 13.4% of the total work force in the country.

  • This 8 year old working in the balloon factory is the only bread winner for his sick mother and 2 siblings. His father had passed away. Most of these children have no other options. Some are orphans growing up on the streets while others are forced to work due the economic hardships of their family.

  • A young boy working in a sweat shop sewing white shirts for a brand name company. He is one of the lucky ones, learning a skill that will sustain him in the future.

  • Charcoal children in Manila picking up left over pieces of charcoal to sell. There is not much future for these children growing up and living in poverty and deprivation. Few will ever have the opportunity to an education or to learn skills to ensure a better life for them in the future.

  • A young girl taking a bath in the toxic waters Buriganga River in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Children living in poverty have little or no access to clean water, safe shelter, healthy food.

  • A 3 year old girl living and playing at the Smokey Mountain garbage dump in Manila.

  • This is JR. He is 3 years old and squats in a tent in the Navotas Cemetery in Manila with his mother. He likes to entertain visitors by climbing onto jeepies and singing.

  • A baby living in the garbage recycle centre is left at home and kept safe from the outside with a fence made with rusty bed springs.

  • Barangay 13. A little boy standing outside his flooded home naked because all his clothes are wet. During monsoon season in Manila, many homes of the poor are completely flooded. Children have to sleep on chairs or tables.

  • Rohingya refugees waiting in the courtyard for their food. Even with strong military presence in the area to restrict the movements of the refugees, there has already been internal conflicts and violence within the camps. Different refugee groups clashed for territory rights and power as they try to self organize. With over 60% of the refugees being women and children, and with an estimated over 80,000 newborns this year, there is a disproportionately high population that are vulnerable to violence and human trafficking.

  • This girl was one of the very lucky ones. She had been given a second chance at childhood. The Philippines Community Fund built a school next to the Smokey Mountain Garbage dump where she had worked. PCF took 800 children off the garbage dump into its school. It is only through sustainable education, nutrition, health and community advocacy that the cycle of child poverty can be broken.


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