KABUL -- Endemic poverty in parts of Afghanistan is forcing many poor families to sell their children in order to survive, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.
Human rights officials say dire economic conditions have forced many families in the northern Jawzjan Province -- one of the most undeveloped regions in Afghanistan -- to sell their kids.
The International Save the Children Alliance, an NGO dedicated to eradicating child labor worldwide, said in a 2010 report that some 28 percent of all children between the ages of 5-15 in Jawzjan have been sold by their parents or guardians.
Farid, a 4-year-old boy in Jawzjan, was sold to a relative eight months ago following the death of his father. His mother, who remarried, received 12,000 afghanis ($280) for her son with the expectation that he would work for the relative.
Farid currently lies on a bed in the children's hospital in Jawzjan with severe burns to his arms and feet. Covered in bandages, he cries in pain.
"When he was brought to the hospital a week ago, the burns on his body were badly infected and swollen," Dr. Khalil Hidari, the head of the hospital, told RFE/RL. "He was suffering from malnutrition and was in very poor health."
Farid's grandmother told RFE/RL the family was not responsible for his poor health or current condition, maintaining that the boy sustained his injuries when he accidentally set a plastic bag alight.
But doctors at the hospital are skeptical of that explanation, with some believing someone may have tried to kill Farid because he was not useful or they could no longer afford to feed and care for him.
"Unfortunately, many Afghans do not know their own rights or those for children and women," says Maghferat Samimi, head of the provincial office in Jawzjan for Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission. "The resulting levels of violence that accompany this are very concerning to us all."
Despite being a signatory of the UN Convention on Children's Rights, child labor in Afghanistan is rampant, with impoverished families selling their children into forced labor, sexual exploitation, and early marriage. Many of the children -- who can be as young as 3 -- are overworked and are subject to malnutrition and disease.
The Afghan government, which is obliged to stop the selling and trading of children under the convention, is ill-equipped to curb the increasing trend of children being sold into child labor.
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