Children in Crisis
Children in Crisis are boys and girls affected by street life, sexual exploitation, hazardous labour, gender inequality, disability, or lack of a primary caregiver. Facing extraordinary hardships, they are desperate for ways out of poverty. This makes them very vulnerable to dangers disguised as opportunities.
Children are more vulnerable than adults as they have less capacity for self-protection and are not fully aware of their rights. This makes them an easy target for various forms of exploitation like child labour or being recruited child soldiers. Girls are also at a disadvantage in some cultures, where traditional beliefs and discrimination result in unequal opportunities for education and subject them to child marriage and early pregnancy.
Anisa (left) lives in Afghanistan. At age 13, she is about to be married off if her family does not receive any assistance.
Her family of five moved from Badghis to Herat Province six months ago when sparse rainfall led to the failure of winter harvest, widespread loss of livestock due to fodder scarcity and the drying of drinking water wells. Like thousands of other displaced families fleeing historic drought conditions in Afghanistan, they now live in an informal site.
“At one time we had a real home and a barn full of sheep which covered our finances; but [we lost everything] to hunger and shortage of water.” Anisa’s grandmother Badro stops for a moment to reflect. “We ate some of them as there was no one to buy them, but the ones that remained got weaker and weaker and finally died.”
Coming to Herat didn’t help the family either; in fact, the situation got worse. Her only son went to Iran two months ago to find day labour, leaving Badro and her three daughters to fend for themselves in an area isolated from most economic activity. Badro has not heard from him since and the family’s reserves are getting low.
Anisa in a makeshift kitchen making tea.
None of Badro’s granddaughters have gone to school, either in Badghis or in Herat. In their village in Badghis, the school doesn’t offer classes for girls.
Anisa is the youngest granddaughter and is shy. When she speaks, she offers short replies and looks at the floor, tugging at the corner of her scarf.
“If I found a good man, I would marry her off,” Badro says, caressing her granddaughter’s head. “I already promised her to one of our relatives in Badghis. If I don’t receive any assistance I will [have no choice]. That [would be better] for her and for us too.” The little girl stares at the floor in silence.
Early marriage is quickly becoming a routine coping mechanism for mitigating drought-related difficulties. Families marry off their girls for revenue in the form of bride price and also to reduce the number of mouths to feed. Based on an assessment in Badghis, over 50% of surveyed households cited child marriage as a coping strategy for food insecurity and reduced family income.
According to Jim Alexander, Country Director for World Vision Afghanistan, “Life has never been easy for these people in some of the most remote and insecure areas of Afghanistan, but they had enough to survive. Because of this drought, that is no longer the case. Normal concerns have now turned to utter desperation, even to the point where thousands of families have felt their only option is to sell their young daughters into marriage in order to feed other family members.”
“Yes, emergency response resources for those who are displaced will help, but equally and perhaps more importantly is to assist them before they are displaced, enabling them to stay on their land and in their homes – their daughters with them,” he emphasised.
In the world’s poorest countries, around 1 in 4 children are engaged in child labour1.
There are approximately 24.9 million victims of human trafficking worldwide. About 20% of them are girls.2
Globally, it is estimated that up to 1 billion children aged 2 – 17 have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect in the past year. Around 64% of them are in Asia Pacific. 3
There are 1 in 4 child brides in the world today.4
In 2017, more than 240 million children around the world were living in countries affected by conflict. Many of them face violence, displacement, hunger and exploitation by armed forces and groups.5
5Child Soldiers International, 2018