SEATTLE, Washington — Togo is a small country in West Africa that sits between Ghana and Benin with a current population of over eight million. The sub-Saharan country has struggled with poverty rates for years but it is slowly improving. As of 2019, the country had a 53% poverty rate, down from 61.7% in 2006. Despite the improvement, poverty is still a big problem in the country. Children in Togo suffer disproportionately, as is the case with poverty worldwide. But they also hold the key to a brighter tomorrow. Here are five facts about children in Togo.
Five facts about children in Togo
- Disease: The infant mortality rate in Togo is almost 50 deaths for every 1000 live births. Despite a decline of 2.69% since 2019, children in Togo still face the threat of severe disease – the leading cause of child death. Even an illness that is considered mild can lead to disastrous effects for children in Togo due to an acute lack of proper medical facilities and equipment. Common diseases that are the most deadly include diarrheal diseases, malaria, lower respiratory infections and ischemic heart disease.
- Child Labor: Child labor is a pressing issue in Togo. Almost 30% of children from the ages of five to 14 are working. The worst forms of child labor include sexual exploitation, forced begging and forced labor in agriculture. Each form of child labor often leads to human trafficking. Other jobs include domestic work, garbage scavenging and working in quarries and mines. However, as of 2017, Togo has made some minor progress to reduce the worst forms of child labor. More labor inspectors are monitoring places of work, which is helping to decrease the number of children doing labor. Even so, the process is slow-moving. While the government allows workplace inspections, it has not given authorization to labor inspectors to issue fines for labor violations.
- Education: Education has improved over the last few years in Togo, as primary education is free. While it is free, many children still do not have adequate access to basic education. Oftentimes, girls are left out of getting an education with 39% of young girls are not attending school. Reasons for this vary, but one cause is child marriage, which typically forces girls to abandon their education. In comparison, 15% of boys are not getting an education. Some leading causes for this are various economic reasons, especially for children who live in extremely poor conditions in the countryside.
- Violence: Children face different ranges of threats and violence daily. Only a few years ago, Togo had a general homicide rate of 9.1 per 100,000 people, and little has improved since then. There is also no legal protection from the government for violence against children in an abusive family or in school. Incest or sexual exploitation receives no punishment from the law or government. Any one form of violence a child experiences will result in approximately a 1.4 times increase in the likelihood of a child’s death. The main causes of violence include sexual abuse, blackmail, rape, emotional violence and other types of physical beatings.
- Rights: Though many children in Togo have little protection, the country has endorsed a number of international conventions that will help with children’s rights. One such convention is the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Convention 138. Since 2007, Togo has enforced the Children’s Code which gives various legal requirements to help govern and protect the rights of children in the country. Additionally, UNICEF is allowed to operate within the country.
The government and various organizations are working to improve the lives of children in Togo. Though there are still many hurdles the country has to deal with, the future is bright for the small sub-Saharan country.
– Katelyn Mendez