Working Children: “We Have Swallowed the Corona”

Nowadays, Coronavirus has become an issue that all are speaking about.

Media, virtual space and the real world are filled with news, the guidelines and orders that how to halt the coronavirus and many have even quarantined themselves at home, even they don’t accept guests.

But outside of homes and away from coronavirus discussions, many children work hard even without gloves and masks to feed their family; they polish boots, sale plastic bottles and collect things from the trashes.

Salem is one of those children who has been dealing with trashes and waste foods for so long due to severe poverty.

He collects and sale iron pieces, plastic bottles and cans, from which he makes money and it has become his job.

I found Salem (fake name) collecting things from a trash place in Baghlan’s capital, Pul-e-khumri

Salem, aged 9, is dealing with wastes in the city since a year, he can hardly make only 50-60 Afs daily that can buy 5 loaves of bread.

I asked, aren’t you afraid of coronavirus? “We have swallowed Corona,” he replied as he laughed.

This far-fetched answer deeply shocked me, and made me think of the families that don’t have enough food to eat during days and nights.

The little breadwinner didn’t want to talk to me anymore when put his garbage-filled pocked on his shoulder, “We have to work,” he responded with a short shrug and went.

When everyone say; “Stay at Home,” where is the place for thousands of people like Salem who don’t have food to eat? What should they do?

Working children who are dealing with wastes, can be carriers of the coronavirus to their families, relatives and the people they interact with. This has also raised concerns among people.

The issue was discussed at an emergency meeting of the Social Security Committee of the Department of Labor and Social Affairs of Baghlan province aimed at raising awareness and preventing the spread of the Coronavirus.

Sayed Saleh Saleh, Baghlan’s chief of Labor and Social Affairs, said the issue of working children deals with government and human rights commission. “We are working to find alternative ways,” he said.

Abdullah Qaderi, head of the Baghlan Civil Society, also fears that the virus would be transmitted to families by working children, saying that the government is obliged to test alternative solutions and prevent such activities that cause dangerous events.

Poverty, lack of workplaces, war and displacements, and lack of enforcement of child labor laws in Afghanistan have been cited as reasons for the increase in child labor.

According to a UN report released two years ago, more than 2 million Afghan children between the ages of 6 and 14 are forced to work.

In connection to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Afghan government has also taken steps to combat the virus, such as building special medical centers, allocating money to provinces and setting up an emergency committee on coronavirus pandemic.

According to UN info, labor children could create major challenges against Afghan people and government, if the government officials didn’t takes any practical and inclusive step.

Babur Yagana

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