As Parliament debates the ratification of the United Nations Convention on all forms of child labour several children are currently trapped as domestic slaves along mountainous dump sites in Freetown.
Domestic garbage disposal units were once considered an efficient way to get rid of food waste and other domestics in the homes, but in the current green living climate, the environmental impact of domestic garbage disposal has caused economic, social and health implications for disadvantaged and vulnerable children in Sierra Leone.
The King Tom dump site in central Freetown is cloaked in a terrible dried up muddy lake between Ascension Town and Congo Town communities, where some a large group of disadvantaged children are currently facing harsh health and environmental conditions whilst searching for scrap metal. Children dressed in rags and barefooted clinch on new arrival dumps at the King Tom ‘Bomeh’ brought in by neighbors and the local council waste management team. Most of the children are prone to scores of different contaminable infections from food-borne bacteria to a number of toxins, chemicals and bacteria that float freely in the stinky cloudy atmosphere.
Children compete with dogs, rats and pigs in a disgusting and unsightly situation, thereby causing serious challenges for the welfare, health and growth of the children.
Mohamed Kanu aged ten has spent over one year at the King Tom dumpsite site scavenging for scrap metal for a living “I have abandoned my parents for the street life,” he told this reporter
“I spend most of my days at the dump site searching for scrap metals to sell before I get something to eat for the day; the environment is too harsh for our survival and we sometimes fall ill from sickness contracted at the dumpsite.”
“Scrap metal dealers are benefiting immensely from children who are mainly being used as domestic laborers and scavengers in the hunt for scrap metal” said Mohamed Sesay a social worker at the Ministry of Social Welfare.
Sesay the (social worker) said, several disadvantaged children are meandering around dump sites for a living, while most of them have become breadwinners in their homes, through the sale of scrap metals for a meager amount.
He criticized some careless parents for abandoning their children and failing to fulfill their moral responsibilities to their children in the provision of care and support to enable them become useful citizens in the future.
Children are shrouded in dark smoke amidst scorching sun and smoldering garbage where metals are not separated from other objects like broken bottles.
At the dump site several scrap metal buyers are scattered around with a hanging metal scale attached to opposite sticks at the expense of vulnerable children involved in a communal forced labor for a living organized by the scrap metal buyers. Child Welfare organizations like Don Bosco have been making frantic efforts to remove them from the streets, but the use of children as breadwinners in homes will be a challenge after the ratification of the child labour laws and its subsequent implementation or domestication in the country for the protection and welfare of children.
By Saidu Bah