Sunday, February 03, 2008

Desperate Afghanis Selling Children for Food Money

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, the more news I get from Afghanistan, the worse it looks. I was over to the Mound of Sound's blog this morning where he's got a post on the selling of Afghani children by desperate parents.
Our good friend and faithful ally in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, must be about the most useless president of any country on earth. He can't handle the insurgency that's spreading throughout his country. He can't handle the flourishing opium trade that has left his country strapped to a runaway narco-economy. He can't handle the rampant corruption in his police and security services. He can't prevent torture in his prisons. He can't bring his country's warlords to heel.

He has been able to safeguard his own job and install his friends in high places. He has managed to thwart the UN's efforts to appoint a super-envoy to organize reconstruction and aid efforts lest that somehow diminish Karzai's own standing.

But surely he has time to protect his country's children.
(Read the rest of it)
A bit of news searching turned up this disturbing report.

Parents who had sold their young daughters said they did so because of extreme poverty and their inability to feed them
KABUL, 3 February 2008 (IRIN) - The recent sale of three Afghan girls in separate incidents by parents blaming extreme poverty for their actions has sparked concern about the safety of poor children in Afghanistan and the lack of adequate legal mechanisms to effectively curb such trade.

Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has expressed alarm over the sale of the children, who came from Herat, Kunduz and Takhar provinces.

“We are shocked over these cases,” Hangama Anwary, AIHRC’s commissioner on the rights of children, told IRIN in Kabul. “They pose a serious warning about a possible catastrophe which may affect poor Afghan children.”

In early January, a displaced family in Shaydayee camp in Herat Province, in western Afghanistan, reportedly sold one of their twin four-month-old daughters for 2,000 Afghanis (US$40) due to their inability to feed both babies.

On 27 January, the parents of a nine-month-old girl in northern Afghanistan’s Kunduz Province sold their daughter for US$20, the human rights commission confirmed. In addition to being very poor, both parents suffered from walking disabilities.

In neighbouring Takhar Province, another nine-month-old girl was sold for US$240, local Afghan news agency Pajhwok reported on 28 January quoting the provincial governor.

In all three cases only female children were offered for sale.

Philanthropic assistance

As a result of philanthropic financial contributions and assistance by government officials and local people, all three children have been safely returned to their parents, provincial officials say.

The parents of all the children have received financial assistance and the disabled parents have since been accommodated in a government-run home at the behest of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Legal or illegal?

All the parents denied any wrongdoing but called attention to their inability to feed their children due to extreme poverty.

Those that paid for the children also felt they had done no wrong as they intended to protect the children from hunger and cold.

While over 50 percent of Afghanistan’s 26.6 million people are estimated to be bellow 18 years of age, the country still does not have specific laws related to child abuse and the sale and trafficking of children.

“We are currently working to draft a law which will address various issues related to child abuse,” Anwary of AIHRC said.

However, all forms of child exploitation are prohibited by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Afghanistan is a signatory.

Photo: Abdullah Shaheen/IRIN
Afghanistan's human rights commission is concerned that in the absence of proper legal mechanisms more cases of child sales may occur

According to Article 35 of the convention, the state must make every effort to prevent any form of “abduction of children or sale of or traffic in children”.

The abuse and sale of children is also prohibited by Islamic Sharia law, which is the major source of nearly all laws and regulations in Afghanistan.

Stop further selling

AIHRC is concerned that the publicity derived from the recent cases of girls being sold may provoke other vulnerable parents to sell their children, particularly girls, in a bid to gain sympathy and financial assistance.

“We want the government to tackle the sale and abuse of children by their parents in a systematic, transparent and legal way, and not in an individual sympathetic manner,” said Anwary, adding that the living conditions of poor families must be improved to end the vulnerability of their children.

Plagued by decades of conflict, Afghanistan is the fifth least developed country in the world with over half of its population living below the poverty line on less than US$1 a day, according to the country’s 2007 national human development report.

Since the beginning of the Afghan mission, Canada has been spending $1.3 million dollars a day. By the time we're supposed to be through Feb 2009), we'll have spent nearly $5 Billion. That's a huge investment in Afghanistan by Canadians. What are we getting for our money? What will we have to show for our $5 billion a year from now?

We say we're there for humanitarian reasons. Yet, more than half the population lives on less than $365 per YEAR. People are so desperate that they are selling their children. They see this as a way not only to feed themselves but to ensure the sold children are fed and cared for. But are they? How does anyone know what becomes of those (mostly) little girls?

If we are really there to help, we should be organizing massive food distribution and relief efforts to stem the starvation and desperation. We are told that only 10% of the aid money we earmark for humanitarian purposes and send to Afghanistan is actually getting to the intended recipients. Corruption, graft and mismanagement gobble up 90% of our aid dollars.

A country is judged on how well it looks after its weakest citizens. Poverty stricken parents and bartered children must be the weakest. We are in Afghanistan to help create a stable society; a democracy which operates under the rule of law. Canadians were told were going on a humanitarian mission. We knew there'd be some fighting but we expected we'd at least not be presiding over a famine.

This is a colossal collective failure. NATO, the UN, the US, Canada and Karzai's warlords must share the blame.

Not in my name!

Change the climate in Parliament.



Anonymous said...

Afghani is the money = Dollar
Afghan is the people.

Selling girls in Afghanistan isn't anything new. Common practice in the rural areas that needs to be addressed.

Anonymous said...

Poor rural people in the south/Pashtu areas sell there chilren to the Taliban because the Talibs promise they will feed and take care of them. In reality they are training them to be suicide bombers.

JimBobby said...

"Afghani is the money = Dollar
Afghan is the people."

Thanks for that. I have been told before that the people are Afghanis and that Afghans are hounds or blankets. I'll adopt your usage from now on.

The root of the problem of selling children appears to be poverty. People who are able to feed, clothe and house their families don't resort to such desperate measures.

How many fewer Taliban suicide bombers would there be if such abject poverty did not exist? How successful would Taliban recruiting be among a relatively prosperous people?

The Taliban pays its recruits 3x what the Afghan National Army pays. With all the billions pouring into Afghanistan from the west, one would expect poverty to be on the decline. Not so. Western billions are mostly going into financing western military force. We spend heavily on military hardware, weaponry, air travel and air power, military salaries and massive bribes to corrupt Afghan officials.

90% of the portion of western money earmarked especially for aid and redevelopment goes to bribes. Only 10% reaches the intended recipients.

Corruption at every level of the Afghan government creates an incentive for the insurgency. Yet, we turn a blind eye to corruption. Gen Hiller says problems with things like a Kandahar Governor accused of torture are none of the west's business. The warlord Karzai installs his warlord cronies as provincial governors and we are told they are not subject to any oversight by the troops dying to keep them in power.

Last year, Karzai was livid when British troops removed the governor of Helmand. The Brits are able to oust a provincial governor but Hillier says we Canadians can't do a darn thing about the Kandahar governor.


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