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Human Trafficking

Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

In the first decade of the 21st Century                                        


Despite improvements in life expectancy, incomes, and literacy since 2001, Afghanistan is extremely poor, landlocked, and highly dependent on foreign aid. Much of the population continues to suffer from shortages of housing, clean water, electricity, medical care, and jobs. Corruption, insecurity, weak governance, lack of infrastructure, and the Afghan Government's difficulty in extending rule of law to all parts of the country pose challenges to future economic growth. Afghanistan's living standards are among the lowest in the world. Since 2014, the economy has slowed, in large part because of the withdrawal of nearly 100,000 foreign troops that had artificially inflated the country’s economic growth.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2021]

Description: Description: Afghanistan

CAUTION:  The following links and accompanying text have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Afghanistan.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspect(s) of street life are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring how children got there, how they survive, and how some manage to leave the street.  Perhaps your paper could focus on how some street children abuse the public and how they are abused by the public … and how they abuse each other.  Would you like to write about market children? homeless children?  Sexual and labor exploitation? begging? violence? addiction? hunger? neglect? etc.  There is a lot to the subject of Street Children.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.


Children Try to Make a Living on Afghan Streets

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, National Public Radio NPR, January 30, 2008

[accessed 27 March 2011]

On any given day in the towns and cities of Afghanistan, tens of thousands of children head to the streets to beg and hawk sundries — even during the winter, when bitter winds and snow keep most adults indoors.  These street kids, who earn on average less than $2 a day, are often the only means of support for their families. And their numbers are growing.

In Kabul's trendy Shahre-Naw neighborhood, 10-year-old Jamal, a waif of a salesman in faded pink boots, is hawking gum for about 20 cents. Determined to score a sale, no matter what, he chases after pedestrians and darts in and out of snarled traffic.  "I'm a little scared of the cars," he says. "One hit me coming the wrong way down the street. But I wasn't hurt too bad."

Afghanistan: What hope is there for the lost children of the bazaar?

Deborah Orr, The Independent, 15 May 2008

[accessed 27 March 2011]

[accessed 21 November 2016]

Three-quarters of Afghans are almost completely illiterate. Among widows, the proportion is much higher. In the old days, it was incumbent on the families of the husbands to look after the widows. Whatever one might think of the practice, in theory, at least, it provided security for vulnerable people. But this is just one part of the social fabric that has collapsed, with nothing to mitigate that loss or replace it. There are too many widows now, too many fatherless children. Widows cast out from the homes of their in-laws, and their children, have nothing, not even a surname.

The mother of these girls has hands too stiff to work the threads and she leaves them at the loom while she works as a laundress. A trader has supplied the girls with a loom, brought them wool, tools and patterns, and shown them what to do. It takes the four of them 10 days to complete a square metre, for which they are paid 1,200 Afghanis per metre (US$24/£12).

For the horror of their labour, and the misery of their stolen childhoods, the children count themselves lucky. Kabul is awash with street children, hundreds of thousands of them, scavenging through rubbish, selling plastic bags, repairing bicycles, labouring for shoe-makers, or asking for alms in return for sending unwelcome wafts of aromatic smoke from the tin cans they wave at likely-looking passers-by.


*** ARCHIVES ***

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 18 January 2011]

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Children are also found working in the urban informal sector engaged in activities such as shining shoes, begging, or rummaging for scrap metal in the streets.

Human Rights Reports » 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 6, 2007

[accessed 17 March 2020]

SECTION 6 WORKER RIGHTS – [d] The law recognizes the standard legal age for work as 15, but there are provisions for 13 and 14-year-olds to work as apprentices, provided they only work 35 hours per week. Children under 13 may not work under any circumstances. There was, however, no evidence that authorities in any part of the country enforced labor laws relating to the employment of children. In 2005 UNICEF reported there was an estimated one million child laborers under the age of 14 in the country. UNICEF estimate, at least 20 percent of primary school age children undertake some form of work. An AIHRC report released this year estimated that most child laborers worked as street vendors (13 percent) or shop keepers (21 percent). Other common forms of labor were workshop hands, blacksmiths, farming, auto repair and tailoring. In cities, a larger proportion of child laborers were involved in collecting paper, scrap metal, and firewood; shining shoes; and begging. Some of these practices exposed children to the danger of landmines. Eighty-six percent of child laborers were boys, and 14 percent were girls.

While no statistics exist, children under 18 have been arrested for drug trafficking related charges. AIHRC reported that in Kabul there were about 60,000 child laborers, the majority of whom migrated to the city from other provinces. Many of them worked under unscrupulous employers who subjected the children to sexual exploitation and forced labor. UNHCR reported that many children worked on the streets of Kabul, Jalalabad, and Mazar-i-Sharif with numbers increasing. The child labor force was predominantly boys aged 8-14 with a smaller number of girls 8-10 years old.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 4 February 2020]

SOCIETAL ABUSES AND DISCRIMINATION - Non-Muslims faced discrimination in schools. The AIHRC received numerous reports that students belonging to the Sikh and Hindu faiths stopped attending schools due to harassment from both teachers and students, and the government had not implemented measures to protect these children.

CHILDREN – The law makes education up to the intermediate level mandatory, and provides for free education up to the college, or bachelor's degree level. Local authorities made some progress in school attendance. A back-to-school campaign launched by the Ministry of Education increased school enrollment from 4.2 million children in 2003 to over 5.2 million during the year.

Since 2002 the number of girls attending school increased by over 30 percent; however, an estimated 1.5 million school-age girls were not enrolled in classes. Some provinces had no schools for girls to attend, and in Kabul, some male family members did not allow girls to attend school.  UNICEF reported that 34 percent of children enrolled in school were girls, although this figure hid large disparities from province to province, with enrollment as low as 15 percent in some areas.

Afghanistan at the crossroads: Street kids turn from beggars to beauticians

Vivian Tan in Kabul Afghanistan, November 12, UN High commissioner for Refugees UNHCR, 12 November 2008

[accessed 27 March 2011]

[accessed 21 November 2016]

Every day, Afghan children ply the streets of Kabul selling anything from newspapers to chewing gum, phone cards and plastic bags. Some station themselves at busy junctions and weave through traffic waving a can of smoking coal to ward off the evil eye. Others simply beg from passing strangers.

There are an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 street children in the Afghan capital alone. Among them are those who could not afford an education as refugees in Iran or Pakistan, and are unable to go to school as returnees in Afghanistan because they have to work from dawn to dusk to support their families.  A UNHCR-funded project is working to bring change.

Kabul humming with beggars as Eid gets near

Kuwait News Agency KUNA, Kabul,  2004

[accessed 10 October 2012]

[accessed 21 November 2016]

The number of beggars in the streets of Kabul, especially child beggars, is on the rise with the approach of Eidul Fitr, the religious festival of Muslims to mark the end of the fasting month or Ramadan.  Wearing shabby cloths with worn-out shoes, beggars of every age and sex can be seen in the busiest markets of this Afghan capital of five million people.  Men and women as well as boys and girls whose ages are ranging from eight to eighty years can be seen in every street, market, square as well as in front of five-star hotels or restaurants known for frequenting by foreigners and well-off people for Iftar dinners.

While the women beggars sitting on different squares of the city or at some busiest locations, the children asking for money are running after the buyers in markets and streets as well as seeking financial help from motorists at traffic jams. The most pathetic side of the begging in Kabul is the teenaged boys who are running after restaurant goers no sooner did they come out of the eating and meeting places. They are asking for financial help presenting them as orphans, homeless, hungry and so on.  Those teenaged boys are also running after locals, but their favourite targets are foreigners visiting shopping centres and hotels. They usually position themselves between the foreigners and the doors of their cars.

Pop star helping Kabul destitute

Bilal Sarwary, BBC News, Kabul, 11 August 2008

[accessed 28 March 2011]

BREAD-WINNERS - According to the United Nations, there are 37,000 street children in Afghanistan's capital. Nearly all are fatherless.  In an almost exclusively male-dominated society with little opportunity for women to find employment, many fatherless children are the main bread-winners for their families.  They work year-round - under burning sun or in freezing snow - instead of going to school.  And most of them are engaged in odd jobs.

Ajmal - a witty 13-year-old who enthusiastically sells gum on the outskirts of Kabul - says his biggest wish is that he could attend school.  "My family relies on my work," he says. "So I try to sell as much as I can. I wish I could focus more on my school, but I can't afford to."  There are also many who do not work and provide for their mothers and siblings by begging.  Like Hussain, 14, for whom begging is an accepted fact of life. He would attend school if he could, but instead spends 10 hours a day begging on the streets of Kabul.  "I tried to work," he says "so my family could live an honourable life, but my boss at the shop paid me very little. I tried a few other jobs, but finally I decided to beg.

U.N. says half of Afghan children not in school

Jonathon Burch, Reuters, Kabul, Apr 21, 2008

[accessed 28 March 2011]

[accessed 26 September 2021]

"In Afghanistan, despite the progress in school enrolment over the last two years, half of school-age children are estimated to be out of school," Shigeru Aoyagi, country director of UNESCO in Afghanistan, told a news conference in Kabul.  Working children, street children, children in prison and disabled children were among those excluded, the U.N. said, but by far the biggest group are girls.

Speaker opens window on life in Afghanistan

Dave Benjamin, Tri-Town News, Jackson, September 13, 2007

[accessed 28 March 2011]

[accessed 21 November 2016]

The landscape and the people are diverse, confusing, beautiful and controversial," Isaac said of Afghanistan. "There are year-round snow-capped mountains, endless rock forges and amazing canyons. There are open-air schools being run in bombed-out buildings, potato fields surrounded by people living in tents, mountainous foothills strewn with abandoned tanks, and suffering cities full of street children. That's what it's like.

Kabul’s beggar children working the streets

Sardar Ahmad, Agence France-Presse AFP, June 09, 2007

[accessed 21 December 2014]

“I was selling eggs. I fell over. My eggs smashed,” the five-year-old whimpers quietly. “I’ve lost 50 afghanis (one dollar), my mother will kill me.” 

Each day Shakir invests the equivalent of a dollar to buy eggs that he drops on a dirty footpath. He then sits miserably in front of them and tells his story in the hope of attracting donations.

Shakir’s trick reflects the competitive world of child beggars in Kabul, a city clogged by a population of around four million people that exploded after the 2001 fall of the Taliban regime led exiles home and jobseekers to the capital.

According to surveys by the UN children’s organisation, UNICEF, there are 50,000 to 60,000 street children in Kabul, said the UN Afghanistan spokesman Aleem Siddique.

Teaching Kabul's street children

David Foster, Al Jazeera, Kabul, 17 May 2007

[accessed 28 March 2011]

[accessed 26 September 2021]

"Don't you recognise me," he asked? "I was one of your students at Aschiana. Now I am finishing my studies, learning computers and earning money. I am not a beggar any more."

The Aschiana project in Kabul helps less than one in ten of the city's street children. But it does offer those there something they can't find anywhere else.  When they finish class they may go back to begging to support their families, but they do so knowing that tomorrow will bring more knowledge and with it perhaps a way out.

Children work the streets to support families

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Kabul, 16 January 2007

[accessed 10 March 2015]

Ahmad Wali, 9, is combing the rubbish dump for soda cans to sell as a way to support his 11-member family in the Afghan capital, Kabul. Thousands of children work the streets to help their households through the harsh winter.

"I have to work hard as my father lost his job and it has become very difficult for us to get by and pay the monthly rent for our house," he explained.

Afghan street children finding way out of poverty through job training programs

The Associated Press AP, Kabul, December 23, 2006

[accessed 21 December 2014]

Fawad's mornings are spent selling apples or red pomegranates, which can net him up to $8 (€6.22) a day.  His afternoons are dedicated to his future.  That's when the teenager studies carpentry at a vocational training center sponsored by the Social Affairs Ministry. Fawad is one of 37,000 young Afghans taking part in some kind of job education across the country, said Mohammad Ghous Bashiri, a deputy minister.

Some working children say they also cannot take time to go to the training centers. "My father is dead," Ahmed Shafiq, 13, said while selling plastic bags on a crowded street. "And I have my mother and three sisters I have to support."

Afghanistan: Daily Survival Robs Street Children Of Education

Ron Synovitz, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty RFE/RL, December 08, 2006

[accessed 28 March 2011]

WORKING TO GET BY - The United Nations says that more than 60,000 school-aged children now work on the streets of Kabul to survive. Some beg. Others polish and mend shoes. Still others sell plastic bottles of water, chewing gum, or newspapers.

Nassrullah is a 7-year-old boy who burns small bits of coal in a tin can at a Kabul park in the belief that the smoke will protect people from curses and bring them good luck. In return, some people give Nassrullah a small amount of money. But others simply turn away, annoyed at the smell of the smoke.

"I make 100 to 150 afghanis (around $2-$3) in a day," Nassrullah says. "Half of that I give to my father. The rest I give to my mother. My father is unable to work, so I am obliged to do this. I also buy bread for them. I leave home every day at 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning to do this.

Street Children on the Rise in Kabul

Jeff Swicord, Voice of America VOA News, Kabul, November 15, 2006

[accessed 28 March 2011]

Take a walk through the crowded markets of Kabul and you can see them everywhere: young school age boys and girls selling plastic bags, bottled water, and other merchandise.  Street children, like 12 year-old Madena -- originally from the northern city of Mazar Shariff.  "My father was killed in the war and now I am working here," she says.  According to United Nations statistics, more than 60,000 children now work in the streets of Kabul to survive.

Afghanistan, Then and Now : A Discussion With Anne Brodsky

Shahram Vahdany, The American Chronicle, October 07, 2006

[accessed 7 Aug  2013]

SV - What's the situation for children? Are they able to go to school or do they have to work?

AB - You certainly see alot of child labor. You see them on the streets of Kabul, in Herat. I was working with this organization called 'Voice of Women Organization’ and they were putting in a grant to try to get some projects for Herat street children and the project wasn't totally to take them out of work because they needed to be able to work to help their family to survive but it was to provide them with education half time and try to provide some field training so that they could get better jobs, safer jobs. It's true that the schools reopened, which is a wonderful advancement over the Taliban, but if you actually look at the numbers there may be 5 million children back to school but the numbers of children in Afghanistan is more than 15 million.

AFGHANISTAN: Children fly kites for peace as world marks international peace day

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Kabul, 21 September 2006

[accessed 10 March 2015]

ASIA IRIN-AS WEEKLY ROUND-UP 90 16 - 22 SEPTEMBER 2006 - As Afghanistan struggles to consolidate its hard-won peace following nearly three decades of brutal civil war and internal strife, young boys and girls in the country's capital expressed hopes for a brighter future at a hilltop ceremony on Thursday, with the children flying kites and balloons inscribed with personal messages of peace. Over 50 children from Ashiana, a local school for orphans and street children in Kabul, participated in the event organised by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to mark the International Day of Peace (21 September).

Mill Valley educator heads back to Afghanistant to teach

Don Speich, Marin Independent Journal, 08/20/2006

[accessed 28 March 2011]

[accessed 26 September 2021]

"Students wanted to do homework, even the street children," she said, explaining that these children are mostly of parents who cannot work because of injuries suffered during the various conflicts that have crippled the country for so long.

Spike in violence could herald imminent Afghan success

Canwest News Service, MAY 11, 2006

[accessed 28 March 2011]

The school is actually one of six that carry the Aschiana name, meaning "nest." Those schools serve a total of 3,000 students plucked off the streets by outreach workers, said Sigrid de Jong, the acting director at the school.

"Our vocational training takes in students up to 28 years old," said de Jong, an Australian volunteer. "Students here study computers, welding, plumbing, sewing, embroidery, hygiene, reading and writing, music, art and even photography. We figure if we can give them a few skills we can get these kids off the street."

Focus on Kabul street children

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Kabul, 1 March 2002

[accessed 10 March 2015]

Unable to provide food for her six young children, Ehsan's mother sent him and his brother into the streets of Kabul to work 10 months ago.  He told IRIN he collected firewood, paper and rubbish, but his friends giggled at the notion.  "He's a beggar like us," they jeered.

The Brave Children Of Afghanistan

Richard Miron in Kabul, BBC News, 19 January, 2002

[accessed 28 March 2011]

The street children are sheltering from the chill - huddling in doorways. One boy I often see charging around near the BBC office covers his head with his ragged and blackened jacket to give himself some relief from the cold.  There are numerous children who wait outside the door of the office hoping for some work. Most of them are shoeshine boys.  They all have similar tales - a father dead either from the war or illness, numerous brothers and sisters, and a family dependent on their meager earnings for their daily bread.

Poverty forces children to quit school to work

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Kabul, 28 June 2004

[accessed 10 March 2015]

While millions of Afghan children have returned to school following the collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2001, tens of thousands of school-age youngsters, restricted by economic hardship, must still work on the streets of the Afghan capital, Kabul, to sustain their families.

Behind the Clouds: A New Hope for Afghanistan

Umberto Angelucci, Unification News, April 2002

[accessed 28 March 2011]

The problem of street children in Afghanistan is very difficult to eradicate; even though the children want to go to school, most of the parents don't want to send them because the children can make more money by begging than their parents.

UN Envoy Urges Major Investment in Children and Youth of Afghanistan

Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, United Nations, New York, 6 August 2002

[accessed 28 March 2011]

·         1 out of every 3 children (over 1 million children) have lost one or both parents

·         20% of children die before their first birthday, mostly from preventable diseases

·         50% of children suffer from chronic malnutrition

·         About half the 200,000 landmine victims are children

·         An estimated 2 million children were uprooted by war

·         50,000 street children in Kabul are their family’s primary income earners

Afghanistan: a country rocked by turmoil, a people devastated by drought

[access date unavailable]

STREET CHILDREN - In the streets of Afghanistan's cities you find thousands of homeless children, mostly orphans. They work in the streets and their earnings help support other family members; many sleep in the streets. 

ASCHIANA - Aschiana, a program supported by CARE Afghanistan and the Canada Fund, is designed to assist these street children. In between work stints, these children come to the Aschiana "campuses" (there are four such "campuses" in Kabul) where, in addition to basic instruction in literacy and numeracy, they are taught revenue-producing skills in pottery, bicycle repair, car repair.

Kabul street children to benefit from new partnership with UNICEF

United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF, Kabul, 16 June 2005

[accessed 28 March 2011]

[accessed 21 November 2016]

Nearly 1,000 street working children in the Afghan capital of Kabul will benefit from a new agreement signed between the local non-governmental organization Aschiana and UNICEF.  The agreement secures Aschiana’s use of two sites in the city to provide training and education for the children, as part of an on-going partnership between the two organizations.

Real lives - Afghanistan’s former child soldiers are eager to embrace the future

Junko Mitani, United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF, Nangarhar, 16 August 2004

[accessed 28 March 2011]

[accessed 26 September 2021]

[Photo Caption] With UNICEF support, the NGO “Solidarité Afghanistan Belgium” (SAB) is running a successful program for 500 former child soldiers and street children. These boys are learning to become electrical technicians.

All material used herein reproduced under the fair use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.  PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS OF COMPONENT ARTICLES.  Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Street Children - Afghanistan",, [accessed <date>]