ASCHIANA (meaning the “Nest” in Dari) is a non-governmental organisation founded in 1995 to help combat the rising number of children working on the streets in Kabul, Afghanistan. In the year 1996, Aschiana conducted a survey, with the assistance of UNICEF Afghanistan and Terre des Hommes (Lausanne, Switzerland), and discovered that there were more than 28,000 children working on the streets of Kabul. More than four decades of arm conflict in Afghanistan had destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure: healthcare, education, roads, and government. Millions of people have died or have become physically disabled, while millions more have been displaced, internally or externally. Many women have been widowed, and children orphaned. As of 2017, UNICEF has estimated that 60,000 children were working on the streets of Kabul alone. The majority (between around eight or nine out of every ten children) of them boys have to work on the streets in a bid to support their families. Children at risk in urban and cross-border locations include:
- Working and child beggars whose families live in a state of poverty in urban areas.
- Children engaged in cross-border work or other exploitative labour out of their homes.
- Street children at especially high risks – street patrol.
- Returned or displaced children, including nomadic (Kochis) children, whose families live in tents or illegal settlements in the urban suburbs.
- Children in conflict with the law; victims of violence and offenders in the hands of police or in juvenile detention centres, and in rehabilitation centres.
- Children in need of emergency protection and at high risk, survivors of violence and/or sexual abuse.
- Severely handicapped children.
In 1995, the first Aschiana Centre was opened with the help of Terre des Hommes (Lausanne, Switzerland) for 116 children between the ages of 6 and 12, who would come and rest under the supervision of social workers during their tiring working days on the streets. The centre provided meals, health, education, medical treatment, vocational training, recreational activities, sponsorship for school, small business training to the families of these children, awareness raising training/activities for them and their families, legal assistance, as well as legal advice and counselling free of cost.