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Brothers 13-year-old Aung Thet Paing (left) and 10-year-old San Lynn Aung (right) no longer attend school. Instead, they spend their days collecting rubbish to help pay off their family’s debts.

In Myanmar’s poorest neighborhoods, 85% of households borrow money from loan sharks just to survive.

Why it matters: The loans can rescue families from an immediate financial emergency, but with interest rates as high as 50% a month, borrowers are trapped in an ever-growing cycle of debt. Many struggle to make their repayments and send their children out to work.

  • Myanmar has one of the worst rates of underage employment in the world. The government estimates that there are 1.3 million child laborers, many of whom are working to help pay off their parents’ debts.
  • “We only have food to eat if we work," says Aung Thet Paing, 13. He spends his days collecting plastic bottles with his 10-year-old brother, rather than going to school.
  • “Sometimes, I think we’ll never be free from this because we are always struggling to pay the money back," says Lone Lone, 20. She struggles to feed her family on her wage as a housemaid, let alone pay back the family’s debts.

Go deeper: Watch the full report from AL Jazeera’s 101 East.

Go deeper

Updated 41 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving.
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions.
  3. World: Expert says COVID vaccine likely won't be available in Africa until Q2 of 2021 — Europeans extend lockdowns.
  4. Economy: The winners and losers of the COVID holiday season.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
3 hours ago - Health

Standardized testing becomes another pandemic victim

Photo: Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post via Getty

National standardized reading and math tests have been pushed from next year to 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: There’s mounting national evidence that students are suffering major setbacks this year, with a surge in the number of failing grades.

3 hours ago - World

European countries extend lockdowns

A medical worker takes a COVID-19 throat swab sample at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Photo by Maja Hitij via Getty

Recent spikes in COVID-19 infections across Europe have led authorities to extend restrictions ahead of the holiday season.

Why it matters: "Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.