Tobacco children in Indonesia – level 3

Tobacco children in Indonesia – level 3

07-06-2016 07:00

Nausea, headaches and dizzy spells – just a few of the symptoms commonly experienced by children who work on Indonesia's tobacco farms.

Thirteen-year-old Maryam is among thousands of children who work in hazardous conditions on farms in the world's fifth biggest producer of tobacco. She works with her bare hands on a family-owned farm and suffers from “green tobacco sickness” – an acute nicotine poisoning.

She says she feels dizzy, gets aches and gets sick.

Children like Maryam across Indonesia are involved in planting, applying pesticides, harvesting, bundling and drying tobacco leaves. The tobacco is then sold to firms who never question the process behind the production.

Hiring children under 15 years of age in Indonesia is illegal, but children are often not directly hired by traders or companies. They skip school or drop out altogether in order to help their families make a living – many only making the equivalent of a dollar a day.

But human rights groups are trying to change things. Human Rights Watch has reached out to some of the biggest companies operating in Indonesia, asking them to educate the families about the dangers of this work.

But change requires the cooperation of many stakeholders, including the Indonesian government, which says it is working on the issue. The head of Indonesia's Child Protection Agency says that any person, who employs a child, which is prohibited by law, including in the tobacco industry, which has a wide impact on public health, should be punished because it is a criminal offence.

It is estimated over 1.5 million children are working in Indonesia's agricultural sector – mainly in tobacco, rubber and palm oil plantations. Indonesia is one of just a few countries that has not signed or ratified the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – a global public health treaty aimed at protecting the population from the consequences of tobacco consumption and the exposure to tobacco smoke.

Difficult words: nausea (a feeling of sickness), dizzy (weak, not feeling well), spell (a short period of time), hazardous (dangerous), bundle (to tie or roll up together), stakeholder (a person or organisation who takes care of something), issue (a problem), sector (a part of an economy), ratify (to agree to formally), treaty (an agreement, a deal, a pact).


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