THE CHILDREN OF THE DUMPS


It’s estimated that around half a million of children live in and because of the garbage in Latin America. Olitia, one of the girls exploited in the trash dumps, has worked here since she’s four years old. Every morning she woke up and went to the dump with his mum and his brothers in order to rummage into the wastes looking for some usable scrap or trash which they sold for a bunch of dollars.

After exhausting working days in these conditions, they come back “home” waiting for the next morning. They live in a few cartons and wood or metal boards that they have piled up to have a room. At least, their shelter is near the dump. They are lucky because they don’t need to take the annoying public transport.
If it’s not clear my indignation with the issue, I could write a bit more about other aspects of these children’s daily lives. The food, here, in the dump, it doesn’t exist the concept of daily portions of fruit, or necessary proteins or calories, everyone rescue among the trash whatever they can. Leftover food from a supermarket or something that is not taken many days off dated.

An undeserved life, as an abandoned dog, that ended not only with the Otilia’s childhood but also her life. With thirteen years old, an infection, which wasn’t treated in a medical center, ended her short life. She didn’t know anything but the dump.

In order to understand better the concept and go deep exploring the issue, we can consult the ambitious ILO (International Labour Organization) project webpage. This project is called IPEC (International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour)
The Spanish version of this webpage, defined the waste segregation work as the next: “it consists in recovering a range of materials which afterwards are commercialized in order to be reused or recycled through commonly clandestine companies”. The ILO also says that, most of these children are led to the dumps by their own parents, neighbors or even friends. That’s the way, without other option or chance, how children are initiated in the activity.

The risks of child labor in the dumps are numerous, according to the organization; the more common illnesses are infections, digestive diseases, malnutrition, glass cuts, contact with used syringes and hospital equipment, animal bites and insect stings, etc.

In almost all the American subcontinent, there are thousands of children whose daily routine is quite similar to Otilia’s. In Latin America there are around eleven thousand townships which have a total of twelve thousand public dumps. These trash dumps are today outlaw spaces. The governments practically ignore the situation of the people living there and actually, the dumps are usually controlled by groups which commercialize with their recourses. We are talking about a very serious child exploitation which is evident and even accepted by the society and the political powers.

The marginality of these outskirts near the trash dumps, makes the politicians do not pay a special attention to the problem. This is only one of the many problems whose solution would not increase the votes they will receive in the next elections.

We can’t forget that we are talking about minors, maybe because of having no other choice or maybe because they are exploited, these children are slaves and probably, enslaving a child is the crueler, more coward and repulsive action possible. The children in the dumps become fast in objects whose value is to be used. Talking about human rights in these conditions is simply, hypocrisy and demagogy.

However, this is not a problem exclusive in Latin America, the child exploitation, is extended all over the world. More concretely, working in dumps is gaining popularity in marginal and poor areas as India, the Asiatic southeast and Africa.

The issue is hair bristling when we know that according UNICEF, a total of one hundred and fifty millions children between five and fourteen years old are submitted to child labor.

The issue raises ethic questions as; can we conceive the new powers growth in the international community while they keep with obstacles like the child slavery? Where are the laws which can stop this situation? What are Latin American governments doing in order to palliate this? Is it only a intern problem or should the international community cooperate to solve the issue? And what is more important, can we, the population, obviate that everyday thousands of children life in these conditions?

More personally, it comes to my mind another question, what’s the scope of this article? I will feel satisfied if reading it, every one of us feels indignant and sick of the constant human rights violations, especially when we talk about the more defenseless humans of all, the children.

Numerous nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations are fighting with the goal of improve the quality of life of these children, one of these institutions is the one called: Out of the Dump. They work in Nicaragua to stop with the child labor in la Chureca. La Chureca is the biggest trash dump in the country in which, one million tons of garbage are dumped every day.

The ILO also works for these children, for example, with awareness efforts. “Montañas sin Corazón” is a radio program about this issue. We can hear a fragment in which we know Lupe, Gina and Pedro, three children work segregating wastes.
Finally, I would like to conclude sharing with you a summary video barely four minutes long which show better how living in a dump is.

Isabel Rivero
Victoria Gerbaudo
Estefanía Sánchez
Olga Conde

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