Elders toiling their way to survival
KABUL (Pajhwok): Despite senility, a number of under-resourced elders can be seen working hard on Kabul roads and streets to support their families.
A resident of Taimani area, Muhammad Hussain, once worked as a cobbler to eke out a living. At 80, he continues to toil his way to survival.
Hussain told Pajhwok Afghan News: “My elder son was killed during the civil war in 1992. Following his death, I have been the sole breadwinner for my family.”
Prior to the demise of his son, the man owned a home and a shop in Kabul, leading a comfortable existence. But the strife took away all his happiness.
“When my son passed away, my wife became paralysed. I sold my home and shop for her treatment. Currently we are living in a rented home. We have asked the government for a shelter.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled, Ali Iftikhari, said three years ago they had provided shelters to deserving individuals in Kabul, Kandahar and Nangarhar.
But no one turned up to live in such places because their families were reluctant to send elders there, he said, adding some disabled people were currently living in those places.
Another octogenarian, Hakimullah, sells edibles in Kabul. “I lost my elder son due to cancer. He left behind two children. His son recently got married and left us.”
Subsequently, the man was left with no option but to work rather than live in a care centre for the elderly. “My two grandsons -- 12 and 18 years old -- are studying and I won’t let them work.”
Based on figures from the Central Statistics Organisation, six percent of Afghanistan’s 26 million population is composed of people who are above 60 years of age.
Pajhwok Afghan News met several elders doing hard labour or begging in Kabul. All of them asked the government for help.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, meanwhile, expressed its concern over the living conditions of the elders and urged the government to support them in line with Article 53 of the constitution.
But Iftikhari suggested legislation to ensure the rights of the elderly, giving priority to vulnerable children, their employment and vocational training.
One and half year ago, the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) devised a plan for constructing elders’ care centres and sent it to the Wolesi Jirga for approval. However, the idea is yet to be endorsed.
ARCS official Sarima Afzali said members of parliament believed the plan was reflective of the Western culture and inconsistent with Afghan traditions.
Wolesi Jirga Deputy Secretary Syed Azizullah Ulfati said: “We rejected this draft law that is in line with the western tradition. We will approve it if the elders who don’t have any relatives are kept in such places.”
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