Dumpsite kids: between the worst forms of child labour and child day care

Worst form of child labour, neglect, or simply no alternative for day care?

This is on Tacloban City dumpsite, the photo taken end of March, and shows one of the problems we are facing in clearing up in the Philippines after Yolanda..The scavengers need the income they earn, and some of them also need their kids to work on the dumpsite, to be able to feed their families. Some families have to live from as little as 500 PHP (11 US$ or 8.50 Euros). Some of the kids are as young as four or five, and their parents seem to bring them to the dumpsite because they have no alternative for day care. Other kids will come to look for recyclables for an hour or two per day, they seem to earn their own pocket money to be able to buy themselves a soft drink.

Since this constitutes one of the worst forms of child labour, one of the objectives of the current UNDP project is to improve the working conditions of the adult scavengers, to enable them to work more efficiently and earn more money. At the same time, we are planning to set up a child friendly space outside the dumpsite before September 2014, where the kids will get the opportunity to go to school, play, eat under clean and hygienic conditions.

Philippines – building a dirt road

dirt road across a small valley

In order to provide access to a source for soil to cover a dumpsite, this road was built across a small valley. Unfortunately, the planner failed to notice a little stream at the bottom of the valley. After a few days of moderate rainfall (for the Philippines), the street had turned into a dam. The water level rose by approximately 3 m over the last weekend, now eroding the road.

A culvert made from a few metres of simple concrete pipe would have avoided this.

Philippines: Kids on the dumpsite

Kids on a waste cliff

These kids were having a break from scavenging recyclables on the Santo Niño waste dumpsite in Tacloban.

Philippines: Panorama of Santo Niño waste dumpsite

Panorama of the Santo Niño waste dumpsite of Tacloban City, Philippines. Approximately 500 000 m³ of disaster debris were brought here during 100 days after super-typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). The dumpsite needed to be re-shaped, as steep slopes of up to 80° were failing. Dumpsite management was modified to allow for controlled dumping, improve compacting and introduce daily covering of the waste. Four weeks after the start of the works with three excavators and two bulldozers, it i staking shape. Yet to be done: covering of the slopes with clay and construction works at the foot of the slope to use the wetland for leachate treatment.

I am aware that this does by no means comply with highest international standards, but given the limitations in technology, budget and available materials, we managed to reduce the environmental footprint and the impact on the surrounding environment.

Philippines: The friendly kids of Tanauan (Leyte)

Kids on a dumpsite in Tanauan

These kids were just playing on the dumpsite, it was a rainy Saturday, but this bunch was really cheerful.

Philippines: risk outsourcing

risk outsourcing

A job not designed for the faint of heart and weak in the stomach. This infectious hospital waste contains bandages with blood and pus, used nappies, bloody tubes, etc. After two days in the sun, it is definitely not a pleasure to collect this hazardous waste. Still lucky, if the cats and dogs did not rip the plastic bags open.
Personal protective equipment helps only if used properly. When (as in this case) this is done by international NGOs, I would call it “risk outsourcing”. Obviously, the persons who designed and supervised these procedures have no clue what occupational health and safety is about.

After observing this, we called the NGO’s supervisor and sent this poor guy home.