A fifth of Afghan families forced to send children to work
Nearly a fifth of Afghan families have been forced to send their children out to work as incomes have plummeted in the past six months with an estimated one million children now engaged in child labour, according to new report by Save the Children Fund.
A survey of 1,400 households across seven provinces of Afghanistan found that 82% of Afghans have lost income since the Taliban seized power in August last year, with 18% reporting they had no choice but to send their children out to work.
Loss of livelihood
According to an analysis by the group, 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.
More than 80% of those surveyed reported a loss of income, with a third (34.8%) having lost all of their household income, and a quarter (26.6%) having lost more than half. Families living in cities were hit hardest, with half of families in Kabul saying they had lost their entire income.
The huge spike in prices caused by the economic crisis has left many families unable to afford food. About 36% of families reported that they are purchasing food in the market on credit, and 39% are borrowing food from better-off families.
As families sink further into debt and poverty, 7.5% said they were begging or relying on charity to feed their families.
A report last month by the United Nations International Labour Organization ILO found that more than half a million people in Afghanistan are estimated to have lost or been pushed out of their jobs in the 5 months under the Taliban rule.
Job losses are expected to increase to nearly to 700,000 by the second quarter this year, and perhaps to 900,000 by the second quarter, if the situation deteriorates.
In the wake of the Taliban takeover, economic freefall and spiralling prices, a brutal wave of hunger and hardship has swept Afghanistan. This winter, 14 million children are expected to face potentially life-threatening levels of hunger, and rates of malnutrition are soaring.
No dearth of food
Ironically, Save the Children’s Country Director in Afghanistan, Chris Nyamandi pointed out that there is no shortage of food in the markets but parents just cannot afford to buy it.
A tragedy could happen if the trend goes unchecked, he warned. “This is an economic crisis, and it needs an economic solution. Governments must find a way to unlock vital funds and unfreeze financial assets to prevent the crisis from spiralling any further.”
Parents’ hard choices
Last month, Save the Children reported that the number of dangerously malnourished children visiting its health clinics had more than doubled since August. Nyamandi said they “treat frighteningly ill children every day who haven’t eaten anything except bread for months”. “Parents are having to make impossible decisions – which of their children do they feed? Do they send their children to work or let them starve? These are excruciating choices that no parent should have to make.”
According to a situation report on the country released last week by the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations food-assistance agency, 22.8 million people – more than half the population – are projected to be acutely food insecure in 2022, including 8.7 million at risk of famine-like conditions. 4.7 million children, pregnant and lactating women are at risk of acute malnutrition in 2022, and all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces are facing crisis or emergency levels of acute food insecurity.
Last year, WFP assisted 15 million people. Despite challenges, it reached 8.5 million people with food and nutrition assistance in January.
By Vatican News staff reporter