Social Issues

Poverty-stricken children pay the price of Afghan humanitarian crisis

Kabul, Nov 24 (EFE).- Afghan children face the brunt of a worsening humanitarian crisis, forcing them to turn to child labor or early marriages as poverty grips the nation, with the onset of winter in the war-ravaged country likely to exacerbate the situation for impoverished families.

Sameer, 8, sells chewing gums in Shar-e-Now of Kabul city for less than two dollars a day to support a family of six.

In the desperation to collect enough money to pay the house rent and feed the family, the Class 4 student, whose priciest possessions include a cricket bat, has not forgotten his dream of becoming an engineer.

His father, an Afghan Army soldier, was killed in a suicide attack in the northern province of Baghlan that forced his mother to move with the family to Kabul in search of livelihood opportunities.

“I cannot go to school daily as I have to come here and sell chewing gums to earn for my family. I lost my father in a suicide attack. We are two brothers and three sisters living with my mother, I love my family and am working for them,” Sameer told EFE.

He said their “house is not good” and therefore, “I want to become an engineer to build tall buildings.”

Sameer’s is not a one-off case in the country that is in the tight grip of poverty.

The worsening humanitarian crisis has pushed countless children to child labor, meaning working for endless hours or taking long walks to work and home.

“My father is disabled and my elder brother polishes shoes. We are nine in the family and live in a rental house. So we have to earn,” Kameen, another street child selling chewing gums, told EFE.

Repeating what he hears, Kameen hopes help from the international community will resume soon.

Afghanistan battles international sanctions implemented by the United States and other countries and international organizations following the Taliban takeover of the country on Aug.15.

Kameen said the resumption of global aid would enable him to go to school, play cricket, and become a doctor.

“I am in school and want to become a doctor. I want to be a cricketer like Rashid and Nabi,” he said, recalling the names of two iconic cricketers of Afghanistan.

Shaima, a mother, is a street beggar.

She takes her 4-year-old daughter with her since strict social norms prevent women from going out alone or talking to strangers.

“It is not good to come out alone. Therefore, I have to bring my daughter with me. It hurts me to see my daughter begging. I have six members. My husband is sick and in bed,” she told EFE.

Poverty has spiked child labor cases, increased school dropout rate, and rise in child marriages.

Abdul Malik gave his 9-year-old daughter to repay a debt of about $2,000 that he had borrowed to run an animal husbandry business that failed.

“I did not really intend to sell or give my daughter in marriage. I had borrowed money and could not repay it. The lender gave offered me more money and take my daughter. I had no choice but to accept,” Malik told EFE.

Afghan culture and Islam prohibit and criminalize child marriage or the sale of children.

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