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Coronavirus Crisis and Rising Child Labour in Afghanistan

As unrest intensifies on a daily basis in Afghanistan and endless wars kill family caregivers in the country, it seems the children are the primary victims of the melee.
December 2020
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Fatemeh Mehrabi

As unrest intensifies on a daily basis in Afghanistan and endless wars kill family caregivers in the country, it seems the children are the primary victims of the melee. On the other hand, children are the ones who are supposed to build the future of Afghanistan and if the proper grounds are not provided for their growth and prosperity, the country’s situation is not going to improve. Some 3.8 million Afghan children are in need of humanitarian aid, in addition, annually, 400 thousand Afghan adolescents and children enter the labour market, but many of whom lack the necessary job skills to find work to provide for their living. Solving this problem requires the Afghan officials’ attention and more aid from international institutes.

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government in this country put into force plans to fight the virus. The corona more has put at risk needy families. The total number of people who have contracted the Covid-19 virus in Afghanistan ,as of date November 24,2020, has reached 45,490, a number which is on the rise. In this regard, 36,145 people have recovered from the disease since the pandemic broke out. Also 1725 people have died of the virus.

Coronavirus Impacts on the Surge of Child Labour in Afghanistan

The coronavirus pandemic has deteriorated poverty in Afghanistan. A number of foreign countries pledged assistance to the afghan government to fight the virus when the pandemic broke out, so far, a part of which has been delivered to the Afghan government. For example, the European union, the World Bank and the U.S. have committed to provide the Afghan government with $235 million to tackle the coronavirus. It is unclear how much of the pledged money has been available to the government, but it seems the government and people of Afghanistan which have lost their daily jobs are waiting for the aid.

((New statistics by the Afghan ministry of economy demonstrate that poverty rate has risen from 60% to 70% since the pandemic hit the country))

According to a recent report by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission on November 21, prior to the corona crisis , 6 million children were in need of humanitarian aid in the country; but the number has soared to 8 million and 12 thousands in need of humanitarian aid after the pandemic broke out. These children are at risk of hunger due to Covid-19 pandemic. According to this report, with the food price rising in Afghanistan, the purchasing power of people, especially the workers, has fallen and last month saw the price of flour and oil rise by 23% in big cities. Although the Afghan government has undertaken some measures to fight the coronavirus including setting up special treatment centers, allocating specified finances to the provinces and establishing a committee to fight the pandemic; to date, people’s access to health and treatment services has not been efficient enough to tackle the corona pandemic.

As the corona pandemic continues and the economy recedes, working children and their families are more at risk of extreme poverty and hunger than other populations; the growth of over 40% of children under 5 has been deterred due to malnourishment in Afghanistan, and 10% of the Afghan children are suffering from severe weight loss . Nearly 700 children are kept in correctional centers in various provinces of the country. These children are under 18 and have been detained for numerous crimes. More than 90% of children in Afghanistan work over 35 hours per week and 50% of street children are doing harsh labour, regarding their age. Annually, 83 thousand children die of various diseases in Afghanistan.

According to a report by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the working children of Afghanistan give 81% of their earnings to their families, 8.4% of the earning goes for buying food, 6% goes for the rent and 4% of the earning is saved.

So far, there has been no basic and substantial work done to protect children’s rights in Afghanistan. 3.7 million of Afghan children are deprived of access to education centers. The situation in Afghanistan that is a war-torn country is more sever than other countries in the world. Children in Afghanistan , due to loss of their fathers and family members are more exposed to forced labour to earn a living.

According to the latest report by the Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan, years of war in Afghanistan have exacerbated poverty , and as result, increased child labour in Afghanistan. A fourth of children between 5 to 14 have to work for long periods of time during the day in Afghanistan to support their families. These children, including boys and girls, who are underage are busy in jobs like peddling, carpeting, brick making, metalworking, mining, agriculture, shoe making, and begging.

This catastrophic situation can be seen all over Afghanistan nowadays and is mushrooming everywhere so that the international institutes have several times                  warned the afghan government for its irresponsibility and asked the government to take fundamental steps to prevent this ugly phenomenon.

Conclusion:

As unrest intensifies on a daily basis in Afghanistan and endless wars kill family caregivers in the country, it seems the children are the primary victims of the melee and a sad future awaits them. On the other hand, children are the ones who are supposed to build the future of Afghanistan and if the proper grounds are not provided for their growth and prosperity, the country’s situation is not going to improve. In this regard, according to the UNICEF report, between 2009 and 2018 nearly 6500 afghan children have been killed  and about 15 thousands wounded , a thing that makes Afghanistan the deadliest war zone in the world in 2018.

Some 3.8 million afghan children are in need of humanitarian aid, and 3.7 children are at the school age but do not go to school; 600 thousand of children under 5 are severely suffering from malnourishment, in addition, annually, 400 thousand young Afghans enter the labour market, but many of whom lack the necessary job skills to find work to provide for their living.

Poverty, war,  lack of awareness of rights of children, high birth rate, parents’ addiction to narcotics,  and parents’ diseases  are among factors that have increased street children in Afghanistan and forced them to immigrate to neighboring countries , especially to Iran, to find work.            

  (The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)             

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