As the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan enters its ninth year, many leading observers believe that corruption in the country’s government — which is currently ranked as the second-most corrupt government in the world by Transparency International, ahead of only Somalia — may be the primary obstacle to forming a self-sustaining government and stable country. Taking this view, the New York Times asked last week, “What if government corruption is more dangerous than the Taliban?” Now, Reuters reports that this epidemic of corruption in the country along with the ongoing war is serving to swell the “number of Afghan street kids” — children who have to work the streets in order to survive:
The disturbing reality in this war-torn nation — where Western powers battle Islamist forces to maintain a friendly government in power — is that at least 600,000 street children have no safety net to catch them. The problem, experts say, is getting worse because of the deepening war and the scourge of corruption, despite the inflow of more than $35 billion from foreign donors since the Taliban were removed from power in 2001. [...]
“Poverty is getting worse in Afghanistan and children are forced to find work,” said Shafiqa Zaher, a social worker with Aschiana, the group receiving U.S. aid for its work. [...] A study by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in 2008 found around 60,000 minors involved in child labour in Kabul alone. Nader Nadery, a senior commissioner at the AIHRC, says it’s a consequence of Afghanistan’s decades of conflict. “In the last three to four years an increasing number of displaced from the war affected areas — Helmand, Kandahar, Ghazni — have poured into Kabul city to seek refuge,” he said.
“The direct link between poverty and corruption is always there,” Nadery told Reuters. “Most development projects are halted or don’t reach areas where it would affect the life of the poor because of the corruption involved.” Last year, a UNICEF study estimated that 24 percent of Afghan kids between the ages of 7 and 14 currently are were engaged in child labor. A number of NGO’s focusing specifically on assisting children currently operate in the country. They include Save the Children, UNICEF, and Aschiana.