Estimated one million Afghan children engaged in labour: NGO

Save the Children says almost one fifth of 1,400 surveyed families say they have to send their children to work.

Two open, empty hands
The huge spike in prices caused by the economic crisis has left many families unable to afford food, according to the study [File: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images]

An estimated one million children are currently engaged in child labour in Afghanistan as family incomes have plummeted in the past six months, according to a study by Save the Children.

A survey of 1,400 households across seven provinces of Afghanistan found that 82 percent of Afghans have lost income since the collapse of the former Western-backed government and transition of power to the Taliban last August.

The research by the Britain-based NGO released on Monday said 18 percent of the families surveyed reported that they had no choice but to send their children out to work.

“According to Save the Children’s analysis, if just one child in each of these families is being sent to work, then more than one million children in the country are engaged in child labour,” the report said.

Afghanistan, as repeated continuously by humanitarian NGOs and the United Nations, is in the grip of a humanitarian disaster because of frozen international aid and lack of access to assets held abroad, after the Taliban took over the government.

Jobs and liquidity in the country have dried up and many government workers have not been paid for months in the country, which was almost entirely dependent on foreign donations under the previous government.

Enormous loss of income

More than 80 percent of those surveyed by Save the Children reported a loss of income, with slightly more than a third having lost all of their household income.

Almost one third said they receive less than half of what they earned before the Taliban came to power.

The huge spike in prices caused by the economic crisis has left many families unable to afford food, according to the study, which said about 36 percent of families reported that they are purchasing food in the market on credit.

Almost eight percent said they were begging or relying on charity to feed their families, the research said.

Chris Nyamandi, Save the Children’s director in Afghanistan, said that he never saw anything like the current desperate situation in the country.

“We treat frighteningly ill children every day who haven’t eaten anything except bread for months,” he said.

“There is no shortage of food here – the markets are full. Yet children are starving to death because their parents can’t afford to pay for food,” Nyamandi also said.

“Governments must find a way to unlock vital funds and unfreeze financial assets to prevent the crisis from spiralling any further,” he added.

Biden’s order

The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 prompted governments and international institutions to swiftly freeze Afghan Central Bank assets abroad, totalling about $10bn.

About $7bn of that was held in the US.

US President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Friday creating the possibility of splitting the frozen Afghan funds held in the US, potentially allotting half for humanitarian aid to the country while keeping the other half available for possible seizure by victims of the September 11 attacks.

The executive order signed on Friday said the administration “will seek to facilitate access to $3.5 billion” of the Afghan assets currently held by the Federal Reserve of New York “for the benefit of the Afghan people and for Afghanistan’s future”.

However, it said the allocation of those funds would be “pending a judicial decision”.

Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has called a White House order to unfreeze $3.5bn in Afghan assets for families of 9/11 victims an atrocity against the Afghan people.

“Withholding money or seizing money from the people of Afghanistan in their name is unjust and unfair and an atrocity against Afghan people,” Karzai said on Monday.

Source: Al Jazeera