Afghanistan: Poverty drives children out to work

Children as young as seven years old are sent out to work on the outskirts of Asadabad city, the center of Kunar province in the east of Afghanistan, where they earn just over $1 a day for a full day’s work.

Digging up the soil and filling multitudes of black plastic bags for seedlings is all that keeps starvation away for some of these children and their families.

One of these children, Ahmad, 10, the sole provider for his family, said his father cannot work due to his old age and has no one else to help him.

Ahmad said he starts work early every morning and earns between 100 afghanis ($1.13) and 150 afghanis ($1.70) a day.

“My family is big. I am 10 years old. We have no other guardian. I have three sisters and four younger brothers. My father is an old man and we have no one else to take care of us,” he said.

Ahmad said he wants aid organizations to help families like them.

Hazratullah, another child and a resident of Naari district in Kunar, is the head of his household after his father died.

He receives one afghani for every three plastic bags he fills with soil. Even spending the whole day filling the bags, he gets very little in return.

Hazratullah criticized aid organizations in Kunar and said that despite his family’s plight, “no one has helped them.”

“The officials of the aid organizations in Kunar cover their own picks in aid distribution and the aid does not reach needy people like us. We have not received any aid so far. I hope that the government and the aid organizations will listen to our voice and take action,” he said.

At least 100 children are working in the area who arrive there every morning to fill their bags, hoping to make enough to take home to buy food for their families.

Child labor has been a major issue in the country for years, especially over the past 18 months after the fall of the previous government.

Save the Children, an organization that works to help children in Afghanistan, in a report in its recent report puts the number of children in need of humanitarian aid in Afghanistan at 14 million.

The organization said that 73,000 children with severe acute malnutrition are under treatment by Save the Children.

Save the Children said it found a third of families have lost their entire household income since August. According to the organization, 18% of families have sent children out to work, with more than one million children thought to be working.