Jalalabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) - They number almost 2,300, and are all Afghani boys and girls, who sometimes work 12 hours a day in the dozens of brick factories in a district of the province of Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan, to help their families pay their debts.
They live with their families in mud huts, built around the 38 factories, and form a community of 556 families. The health of the 'little slaves' is harshly tested, and the children often break their bones on account of the weight of the materials used to make the bricks. Moreover, according to data from a study carried out by the Afghani Child Action Protection Network (CAPN), more than 90% of the workers have no access to education.
Out of the 3,500 children who live in the district of Sorkhord, only 257 go to school, while the others are employed by the business owners, bartering their childhood for the cancellation of their parents' debts. The majority of them are under 15 years of age.
A great number of families, in fact, asked for loans from the owners of the factories and the brick merchants, loans that were given at extremely high interest rates and are hard to repay, forcing mothers and fathers to send their minor children to work.
"The amount of the debts varies from 800 to 2,000 dollars", Haji Hayat Khan, the director of the department for social affairs in the province of Nangarhar, tells the news agency IRIN.
The labour and social affairs ministry in Kabul has encouraged the non-governmental organisations working on the ground to help the indebted families pay their debts through long- and short-term loans. Minister Wasil Noor Mohmand, confirming the necessity of intervention on the part of these organisations, says: "Obviously the government alone cannot pay all their debts".