Media CenterCentral American Youth Programs Threatened as Department of Labor Funding on the Line
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Catholic Relief Services
Critical funding to combat child and forced labor may disappear in Central America
SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR, April 13, 2017 – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) strongly opposes the Administration’s proposal in its 2018 budget request to eliminate grant-funding from the Department of Labor’s Bureau for International Labor Affairs (ILAB), which helps thousands of at-risk youth in Honduras and El Salvador develop marketable skills and secure employment, making them much less likely to fall victim to gang violence and exploitative child labor.
“In countries with some of the worst gang violence in the world, economic opportunity for young people is a life line,” said Rick Jones, senior technical advisor for Latin America & Caribbean at Catholic Relief Services. “The United States has led efforts to protect vulnerable children and their families in Honduras and El Salvador for nearly two decades. They need our help accessing the opportunities that exist in their communities so that they are not forced to migrate elsewhere to find them.”
ILAB funded a $13-million program in Honduras and El Salvador that provides job training and employment services to some 5,100-low-income youth living in violent and crime ridden communities. The program, called Youth Pathways-Central America, is part of the YouthBuild International network, and combines basic education with technical skills, self-esteem workshops and community service, and works with private-sector companies and regional governments to provide seed capital to create employment alternatives in the limited job market.
“The Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala suffer from the highest youth homicide rates in the world,” continued Jones, who has lived in San Salvador for more than 20 years. “The escalating violence is stifling investment and economic growth and is pushing young people, already discouraged by a lack of opportunity, to migrate in record numbers.”
There are over 154 million young people aged 15-25 in Latin America and the Caribbean – 73 million of which are unemployed, a number almost equivalent to the population of Turkey.
Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are some of the most violent countries in the world with the homicide rate for youth at 90/100,000, nearly five times higher than what the World Health Organization considers an “epidemic.” Studies indicate that the main causes of youth violence in Latin America include inequality, high unemployment for youth, increased school dropout rates, and disintegrated family structures.
“There are youth enrolled in the YouthBuild program, actively striving for a brighter future,” said Rick Jones. “Pull the plug now and that brightness goes dark real fast – the only option they will have is to migrate.”
Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, please visit crs.org or crsespanol.org and follow CRS on social media: Facebook, @CatholicRelief, @CRSnews, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.