Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, April 21st, 2018

The Plight of Afghan Children

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The Plight of Afghan Children

Although children are involved in all sorts of works, a noteworthy number of children work in coal mines for hours without any proper protection. The wage they receive is about one dollar per day. It has been reported that some of the children working in these mines are below the age of ten.

If you give a smile to a child, you will receive a sweet smile in response. That signals the pure nature of children. In Afghanistan the children are deprived of their basic rights, are subject to mental and physical violence, they work hard dawn to dark whether it is scorching summer or freezing winter and are utilized for launching terror attacks or sexual abuse. Despite that, Afghan children have not forgotten to smile. They use the shortest opportunity they find to play and chill without thinking of tomorrow. This is the responsibility of government to think about the present and future of children of Afghanistan but the government seems to be sleeping like log turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to the grave sufferings of children.

Children are the builders of a nation's future. At times when Afghanistan is in dire need of future and present builders, unfortunately the suffering of children in this country is multiplying with the passage of each year. That is because the government of Afghanistan and its international backers have failed to address the growing problems of children. Today the children of Afghanistan need to nurture in a peaceful environment. But peace is going to remain a dream for Afghanistan as no end to the ongoing conflicts in here is visible.

The entire key to the success in Afghanistan is education of the young towards tolerance, understanding and respect for all faiths and cultures and empowering them with basic aid, school supplies and economic opportunities, while providing security from the bad guys.

In 2000, when the situation was under the Taliban only 21 percent of boys and less than 1 percent of girls were enrolled in schools, there has been a handsome increment in enrollment since the fall of Taliban though. Today more than 5 million children go to school despite that, nearly 4.5 million remain out of school and become the victims of work and crimes. According to estimates up to 30 percent of primary school age children are engaged in some form of work and are often the sole source of income for their families.

Child labor is extreme in Afghanistan with 21 percent of children working to feed their families. Although they are involved in all sorts of works, a noteworthy number of children work in coal mines for hours without any proper protection. The wage they receive is about one dollar per day. It has been reported that some of the children working in these mines are below the age of ten. The government is lacking any proper policy for these children although it knows they work in the most hostile condition in the country.

Wahidullah Shahrani, Minister of Mines has recently said his ministry is drafting a regulation according to which children below the age of 18 will not be permitted to work in the mines of Afghanistan. The regulation will be implemented all over Afghanistan and mines will be controlled and monitor to make sure nobody under the age of eighteen works as a miner. But in country where the law makers are the law breakers one cannot be optimist about the successful implementation of the new regulation being formulated by Ministry of Mines.

Laws about laborers are quite vague and contain certain pitfalls. According the laws in Afghanistan, every teenager whose age is above 14 can work 35 hours a week. But in the view Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) the laws about labors are not implementable. Seeing that children of different ages are involved in various sorts of works, in regards of children affairs there is lawlessness in Afghanistan.

Based on the figures from AIHRC, there 200 children that work in coal mines located in Bamiyan province. They work in different shifts and because the mines are at quite a far distance from the homes of these children, they have to remain at mines day and night. The same condition is deemed to be prevailing in other 33 provinces of Afghanistan. Working in coal mines has the worst consequences for the children especially for their health.

Hundreds of child laborers in informal and/or illegal coal mines in Bamyan and Sar-e-Pol provinces, in central and northern Afghanistan respectively, have respiratory and eye infections and are exposed to other dangers, according to health officials in both provinces. Regular inhalation of coal dust can cause serious respiratory and lung diseases, such as asthma-causing anthracosis. Harmful bacteria and dirt in coal dust can also damage the eyes, health experts say.

The children form about half the Afghan population. In Afghanistan around 21 percent of child workers are employed in shops; 13 percent work as street vendors. Others work in vehicle repair, metal workshops, tailoring and farming. In Kabul and many other major cities of Afghanistan, there street children who shine shoes, beg, clean cars and collect and sell scrap metal, paper and firewood. Children can also be seen in garbage areas searching for things which can be sold for cash or get something to eat and kill their hunger.

These children not only eat health-hazard foods but also drink polluted water and breathe in the polluted air which increase chances of various bacterial diseases in them. Majority of laboring children are mostly seen in dirty cloths working seven days a week and more than 12 hours a day.
The future of Afghanistan greatly dependant on the how the children of this country is nurturing today. Therefore, optimal efforts should be in place to counter the growing troubles of children in this country.

Sher Ali Yecha is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlookafghanistan@gmail.com

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