Xinhua, November 21, 2012

Afghanistan marks Universal Children’s Day with sad tales

They are kidnapped by certain groups, exploited by unscrupulous individuals, sexually assaulted and even used as suicide bombers

by Abdul Haleem

It is ironic that when the world marked the Universal Children’s Day Tuesday to celebrate the joy of childhood, hundreds of Afghan children were seen scavenging in Kabul’s dumps trying to eke out a living by selling whatever usable items to support their families.

“I will be happy if I find some plastic packets, cardboard box or Pepsi cans to sell and earn some money,” the nine-year-old Jawad told Xinhua in a brief interview.

Jawad, who like some Afghans have only one name, sadly told Xinhua that he was forced to collect used items to earn some money after the death of his father.

“In addition to collecting usable goods from garbage piles, I also wash cars at noon and afternoon almost every day and often earn some 500 Afghanis (about 10 U.S. dollars) daily,” Jawad said.

Jawad said that he assumed the role of the head of the family after his father was killed in a suicide bombing in Kabul two years ago. Since then he has been doing odd jobs aside from scavenging.

A child with his bag of garbage in Kabul
A child with his bag of garbage in Kabul in January 2012. (Photo:

The 11-year-old Azim is also looking after his four siblings through scavenging and working in the market.

“I do all kinds of work, from washing cars, scavenging in garbage containers, and carrying boxes in the market to support my family,” Azim said.

Azim said that he was not able to go to school because to do so would be to abandon his family who depends on him.

Some poor children have to work in brick kiln factories under harsh condition and polluted environment.

“I am working in brick kiln from dawn to dusk and the factory owner provides me breakfast and lunch plus 80 Afghanis per day,” Sayed Khan, 12, said when Xinhua talked to him in his work site.

Even though the post-Taliban Afghanistan has made considerable achievements over the past 11 years with the support of international community, the country still needs more time to recover from the ravages of the war.

Today in Afghanistan, more than 8 million children, 39 percent of them girls, are now going to school. But 4 million Afghan children still have no access to schools because of poverty, security problems, and restrictions due to tradition and religion.

Although there is no official statistics about the number of street children in Afghanistan, it is said that thousands of street children are now forced to engage in child labor in the war- ravaged country.

Some of the children of poor families are forced to beg in the streets.

The poor Afghan children are the most vulnerable segment in the conflict-ridden country. They are kidnapped by certain groups, exploited by unscrupulous individuals, sexually assaulted and even used as suicide bombers.

A week ago, a five-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in the northern Balkh province.

In a bloody suicide bombing that rocked Kabul last September, it was a 14-year-old boy who blew himself up next to the headquarters of NATO-led troops killing seven street children and injuring four others.

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