An international rights group says a quarter of all Afghan children work for a living yet the government fails to protect them from injury, death or exploitation.

Human Rights Watch says children in Afghanistan work long hours for little or no pay, in labor-intensive industries, including carpet-weaving, brick-making, mining, metal work and farming. The findings came in a new HRW report on child labor in the war-ravaged country, released on Thursday.

The New York-based group says many are driven to hazardous work by extreme poverty.

HRW notes that Afghanistan's labor law bans children under 14 from work and that Afghanistan has ratified international treaties on child labor.

However, the report says Afghan authorities are failing to protect "tens of thousands of children, some as young as 5, from hazardous conditions."