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Turkey marks Children’s Day as economic crisis adds to widespread children’s rights violations

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Turkey is celebrating National Sovereignty and Children’s Day in an environment worsened by the country’s deteriorating economy, which forces many children to work – even in conditions that threaten their health and safety – to be able to meet their families’ basic needs, while failing to attend school.

On Saturday Turkey marked the 102nd anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish parliament on April 23, 1920, declared National Sovereignty and Children’s Day by the nation’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Turkish media said reports and statistics regarding children in Turkey in the last few years reveal the country’s deteriorating track record of children’s rights, added to by the financial difficulties of citizens due to jacked-up prices, fueled by a currency crisis amid the highest rate of inflation in nearly two decades.

According to a report drafted by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmakers Candan Yüceer and Gamze Akkuş İlgezdi, 85 percent of the children in Turkey are malnourished, 38.7 percent of the households skip meals almost every day, 74 percent of families have difficulty buying baby formula and diapers, and 21 percent cannot get them at all, the Evrensel daily reported on Saturday.

The report also showed that at least 556 child laborers have died in workplace accidents in Turkey between 2013 and 2021, with 62 children – 21 of them being under the age of 14 – losing their lives in the last year. Six more children died in Turkey in workplace accidents in the first three months of 2022.

Substance abuse occurs in children as young as 13, the lawmakers said in the report, adding that more than 250,000 children have been victims of sexual abuse in the country in the last 10 years, with cases related to child abuse increasing three-fold in the same period, according to official data.

The Birgün daily also reported, citing data from a 2021 report by independent think tank TEDMEM, that some 676,000 children were unable to attend school in Turkey between 2020 and 2021, with the figure including every one out of 10 children in the country between the ages of 14 and 17.

Although the latest official data show that there are more than 720,000 minors between the ages of 5 and 17 in the labor force in Turkey, the Workers’ Health and Work Safety Assembly (İSİG) claims the real figure is closer to 2 million, Birgün also said.

According to Justice Ministry data, there are currently 2,076 children between the ages of 12 and 18 in prison, including more than 500 youngsters convicted of crimes. Apart from them, 396 children are also accompanying their mothers behind bars.

A recent report prepared by the Turkish General Practitioners Journal also revealed that one in every four children in the country was underweight and that anemia had become a serious problem affecting 85 percent of girls and 65 percent of boys.

Turkey is currently in the middle of an economic crisis as consumer prices accelerated to an annual rate of 61.14 percent in March, up from 54.4 percent in February.

Food and fuel prices have more than doubled in the last few months. An increasing number of Turks have complained on social media about rising electricity bills and falling into debt. Many have said even basic foods such as vegetables have become a luxury as prices have risen by nearly 400 percent.

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