ISLAMABAD - Thousands of Afghan children work under hazardous conditions that can cause illness, injury, or even death, according a report released Thursday by Human Rights Watch.
Titled, "They Bear All the Pain: Hazardous Child Labor in Afghanistan", the report says at least a quarter of Afghanistan’s children between the ages of five and 14 work to help support their families.
Many of these children, according to the rights group, work long hours with little or no pay.
HRW has blamed the Afghan government for failing to protect these children.
“Thousands of Afghan children risk their health and safety every day to put food on the family table,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The Afghan government needs to do a better job of protecting its children, and the country’s future, by enforcing the law prohibiting dangerous work for children.”
Afghanistan refutes report
Afghanistan’s government has refuted the accusations put forward in the report.
Fatih Ahmadzai, the spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyrs, and Disabled, said his ministry believes the figures are inaccurate because HRW did not conduct any survey for its report.
Meanwhile, the country's human rights body, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, says that up to two million Afghan children are working at a job, sometimes in hazardous conditions.
The commission cites severe poverty and rising unemployment, along with ongoing violence that has orphaned many children, as reasons for the high number of youngsters in the work force.
Lack of resources
Afghanistan’s law does not allow children under 14 to work; but lack of resources and enforcement personnel lead to lax implementation.
Most of the country’s budget is spent on security, leaving little room for social services such as child welfare.
HRW acknowledges budgetary constraints play a role in the prevalence of child labor, but emphasizes the issue perpetuates poverty by depriving children of an education. The organization has requested the Afghan government and its donors take immediate steps to protect youngsters working in particularly dangerous conditions and plan to provide education to all children.
WATCH: HRW video on child labor in Afghanistan