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06 June 2006

Nepalese Children as Porters

A 2000 report by IPEC-Nepal

"Child porters are used to carry goods in many urban market centres, to load, unload and fetch luggage in bus parks, and to transport goods and construction materials on various cross-country routes. The use of children as porters has been a traditional survival strategy for impoverished rural families for generations. Over 90 percent of all child porters originally come from rural areas.

There are two types of child porters: short distance porters who work in market/business centres and bus parks, and long distance porters who carry loads along rural routes and who are generally seasonal workers. IPEC estimates that there are about 46,000 children long-distance child porters and about 3,900 short-distance child porters in Nepal. Most are boys between the ages of 10 and 17 years of age. Short distance porters tend to be older, 15 years on average, while long distance porters are on average 14 years old.

While Nepalese law prohibits minors from carrying more than 25 kilos, this restriction is largely ignored. As wages are often determined by the weight of the load, these children frequently carry loads that exceed their own body weight. According to a recent IPEC Rapid Assessment Survey, the average weight load of a short distance child porter is 56 kilos, while that for long distance child porters is 35 kilos.

Child porters face a number of serious health risks: increased heart, circulatory and digestive problems; tuberculosis; malnutrition and stunted growth; chronic leg and back pain; and a life expectancy shortened by as much as 20 to 30 years. The longer the distance, the greater the exposure to hazards. Long distance porters carry loads for many days (on average six), do not eat regularly and risk accidents on dangerous mountain paths."

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