Child labor exploited in Bamyan coal mines
BAMIYAN CITY (PAN): About two hundred children are engaged in arduous physical labor in the Ashpushta coalmining region in the central province of Bamiyan, according to a survey conducted by the provincial human rights office.
Of 100 coal mines in the area, only six are operated by the government and rely strictly on adult labor and advanced technology.
The others often illegally employ children.
Children emerge from the tunnels hauling the valuable resource, their faces blackened with coal dust.
Habibullah is a 15-year-old boy from the Klech region in Kuhmard district. He works in a coal mine with his father, toiling twelve hours a day, from 6 am to 6 pm.
When he first started the job, he was only capable of producing 14 kg of coal in a day. Now, he is more experienced, and can produce 40 kg.
He makes 250 afghanis per day, while his father gets around 400 afghanis. Combined, that amounts to about $13 per day. With that, they support their family.
Habibullah said he longs to go to school like other children, but his father needs him to work because of his family’s difficult economic situation.
According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,childrenare protected from exploitation and arduous work, and they have the right to proper training and fair wages.
But in this mine, children are among the roughly one thousand workers engaged in the grueling task of coal extraction.
Mining is a dangerous occupation, and can have long-term health effects, including respiratoryand liver disease.
Abdul Ahad Farzaam, head of the provincial office for human rights, said a survey conducted by their office revealed that 200 children are illegally working in the Ashpushta coalmines.
The survey has been shared with the Directorate of Labor and Social Affairs of Bamiyan province, as well as officials in Kuhmard district. But so far, no action has been taken to prevent the children from working.
Abdul Khaliq Zaliq, district chief of Kuhmard, says that security forces are not able to prevent the children from working. He said that many people don’t know that arduous labor is illegal for children, and that they would make problems if the police tried to enforce the ban on child labor.
He suggested that an awareness campaign would be more effective than law enforcement.
Spokesman for the mining ministry, Jawad Omer, said the ministry plans to create a brigade of seven thousand police to patrol mines across the country. He said that 1,500 of these forces would be dedicated to the Logar Ainak copper mine, and that because coal from Ashpushta is used in melting the copper at that mine, the coalmines would fall under their jurisdiction.
At that time, child labor would be eliminated, he said.
Forcing children to perform other arduous labor – such as farming, shepherding, collecting firewood and weaving – is also a gross violation of law.
Farzaam says that although a nation-wide survey has not been conducted on the use of child labor in the mining industry, his agency is aware of thousands of children engaged in arduous labor in the central provinces, including Bamyan.
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