Monday, 09 April 2018 11:16

ZIMBABWE: Child Workers Exposed to Poisons At Tobacco Farms

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Harare — Child labour and other human rights violations are putting the lives of workers at risk in the Zimbabwean tobacco industry. According to research by a human rights organisation, children work in hazardous conditions, performing tasks that threaten their health and safety or interfere with their education.

Child workers are exposed to nicotine and toxic pesticides and many suffer symptoms consistent with nicotine poisoning from handling tobacco leaves. Adults working on tobacco farms in Zimbabwe also face serious health risks and labor abuses.

The violations are carried in a 105-page report by Human Rights Watch (HRW). Based on interviews with 125 small-scale tobacco farmers and hired workers, including children or former child workers, the report indicates the government and companies had generally not provided workers with enough information, training, and equipment to protect themselves from nicotine poisoning and pesticide exposure.

Margaret Wurth, children's rights researcher at HRW, said government needs to take urgent steps to protect tobacco workers.

"Companies sourcing tobacco from Zimbabwe should ensure that they are not buying a crop produced by child workers sacrificing their health and education," she added.

Zimbabwean law sets 16 as the minimum age for employment. It prohibits children under 18 from performing hazardous work, but does not specifically ban children from handling tobacco.

The labour ministry has been quoted as saying it had not documented any cases of child labor in the tobacco industry.

Zimbabwe is the world's sixth-largest tobacco producer.

The crop is the country's most valuable export commodity, generating over US$900 million (R10,7 billion) in 2016.

By Marcus Mushonga

Source: AllAfrica

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