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‘2m destitute children forced into hard labor nationwide’

AT News Report

KABUL: The Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MoLSAMD) on Tuesday announced that almost two million Afghan children worked in hazardous conditions, which rendered them mentally and physically unwell.

A 12-year-old Ahmad works in a forging workshop from dawn to dusk every day in the capital city of Kabul. While wiping beads of sweat from his face, Ahmad said that he had been working with the workshop since he was nine.

“I come here at 6am and work till late evening. I am paid only 500 AFS per week. I am the breadwinner of my family and spend all the money back on rent and food needs,” he said.

With tears rolling down his cheeks, he shared that his father was disabled and thus he had to work. “I am only able to make ends meet. I have four sisters and five brothers,” he said.  

Ahmad said he has got used to working in the severe and hazardous conditions. “I often fix the windows, wash dishes and bring grocery.  It isn’t hard for me now because I got used to it.” 

Ahmad is not the only child who is engaged in labor but poverty has forced hundreds of other children to work on the streets of Kabul city. Some work as vendors, some shoe shiners and some even beggars.

Meanwhile, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has voiced concern over child labor in the coal mines.

Najibullah Babrakzai, a human rights activist, called on the MoLSAMD to take serious steps against children labor and abuse. “Unfortunately, due to poverty, bad economical condition, insecurity and lack of authorities’ attention, children are working in coal mines, in workshops and some of them weaving carpets at home. They are enduring their tough lives’ agony,” he said.

He added that such labor in dangerous and unsafe environments posed mental and physical illnesses to the working children.

Moreover, Abdul Qadir Mustafi, spokesman for the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum (MoMP) said that some illegal armed groups and militants were abusing children and forced them to extract mines in rural areas.  

However, spokesman for the MoLSAMD, Abdul Fatah Ahmadzai, said on Tuesday that efforts were underway to prevent abuse and violence against children.

“In accordance to our plans, we try to stop child labor in mines and other dangerous places. We are trying to raise awareness among parents through Ulema and Mosques, asking them not to let their children to do hazardous work.”

He said the ministry had identified and collected orphans and had sent them to orphanages.

According to the AIHRC, the Afghan children are experiencing the toughest conditions such as hazardous jobs, health issues, child abuse in war, violence and forced marriages.

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