KABUL Feb 7 Dwindling development aid as
the war winds down in Afghanistan means child labour in the
impoverished country is at risk of becoming more widespread, the
International Labour Organisation (ILO) warned on Tuesday.
Half of Afghanistan's population of 30 million are under 15,
with almost two million children in full or part-time work,
UNICEF estimates of a country where war, poverty, unemployment
and pride in having large families have created a huge underage
With foreign troops fighting Taliban insurgents pulling out
by the end of 2014, global attention is dolefully shifting away
from Afghanistan and its humanitarian needs, said the ILO's
representative to Kabul Herve Berger.
"The issue of child labour may fall below the radar screen
and be seen as less important after 2014," Berger told Reuters.
"What is key here is ensuring enough sustainability."
Berger cited a report by the UN agency detailing one of the
worst forms of child labour -- brickmaking in the dusty kilns in
the country's east, where children work in a slavish cycle of
debt that is almost impossible to escape.
Though both child labour and so-called bonded work are
illegal in Afghanistan, children as young as five churn out
hundreds of bricks a week for a few dollars to pay off family
debts which swell the longer they work there.
Poor health from harsh working conditions, reliance on
shelter and electricity provided by brick employers and denied
education mean brickmakers are tied to their work.
With Afghanistan's construction boom -- a third of which is
supported by foreign aid -- expected to dampen as aid dries up,
brick demand will slump and the children will be forced further
into poverty as the balance tips in favour of the employers.
This mirrors what could happen to Afghanistan on a larger
scale when the aid vanishes, a process which has already
"All service sectors will be affected as aid dries up. Lower
profit margins mean more children will be working," said Sarah
Cramer, project manager at Samuel Hall Consulting, which
conducted the study for the ILO.
Civilian aid, the vast majority coming from the United
States, peaked in 2010 in Afghanistan and Washington has said it
will spend less on development as it withdraws troops.
U.S. economic and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan fell from
$4.1 billion in 2010 to $2.5 billion in 2011. The UN World Food
Programme only managed to raise half of its Afghan budget last
year as donors cut back as global economic woes mounted.
U.S. aid will be even lower this year as Washington shifts
to sustainability projects, which they say require lower levels
Ensuring sustainability is one of the key concerns to be
voiced at the major Afghanistan conferences in Chicago in May
and Tokyo in July, Berger said.
He said that despite Afghanistan's pledge last year to set a
minimum age for coal mine workers at 18, the country must be
vigorous in eradicating child labour when exploring its untapped
mineral deposits, plans which are already unfolding in the face
of disappearing aid.
(Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Nick Macfie)