By EBRAHIM NOROOZI
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Nabila works 10 hours or extra a day, doing the heavy, soiled labor of packing mud into molds and hauling wheelbarrows filled with bricks. At 12 years outdated, she’s been working in brick factories half her life now, and he or she’s most likely the oldest of all her co-workers.
Already excessive, the variety of youngsters put to work in Afghanistan is rising, fueled by the collapse of the economic system after the Taliban took over the nation and the world minimize off monetary support simply over a 12 months in the past.
A current survey by Save the Kids estimated that half the nation’s households have put youngsters to work to maintain meals on the desk as livelihoods crumbled.
Nowhere is it clearer than within the many brick factories on the freeway north out of the capital, Kabul. Circumstances within the furnaces are robust even for adults. However in nearly all of them, youngsters as younger as 4 or 5 are discovered laboring alongside their households from early within the morning till darkish within the warmth of summer season.
Kids are doing each step of the brickmaking course of. They haul cannisters of water, carry the picket brick molds filled with mud to set them out within the solar to dry. They load and push wheelbarrows filled with dried bricks to the kiln for firing, then push again wheelbarrows filled with fired bricks. They decide by means of the smoldering charcoal that’s been burned within the kiln for items that may nonetheless be used, inhaling the soot and singeing their fingers.
The youngsters work with a dedication born out of figuring out little else however their households’ want. When requested about toys or play, they smile and shrug. Only some have been to highschool.
Nabila, the 12-year-old, has been working in brick factories since she was 5 or 6. Like many different brick staff, her household works a part of the 12 months at a kiln close to Kabul, the opposite half at a one outdoors Jalalabad, close to the Pakistani border.
Just a few years in the past, she received to go to highschool slightly in Jalalabad. She’d like to return to highschool however can’t — her household wants her work to outlive, she mentioned with a gentle smile.
“We will’t take into consideration anything however work,” she mentioned.
Mohabbat, a 9-year-old boy, stopped for a second with a pained expression as he carried a load of charcoal. “My again hurts,” he mentioned.
Requested what he wished for, he first requested, “What’s a want?” Then as soon as it was defined, he was quiet a second, considering. “I want to go to highschool and eat good meals,” he mentioned, then added: “I want to work nicely in order that we are able to have a home.”
The panorama across the factories is bleak and barren, with the kilns’ smokestacks pumping out black, sooty smoke. Households dwell in dilapidated mud homes subsequent to furnaces, every with a nook the place they make their bricks. For many, a day’s meal is bread soaked in tea.
Rahim has three youngsters working with him at a brick kiln, ranging in age from 5 to 12. The youngsters had been at school, and Rahim, who goes by one title, mentioned he had lengthy resisted placing them to work. However even earlier than the Taliban got here to energy, because the warfare went on and the economic system worsened, he mentioned he had no selection.
“There’s no different approach,” he mentioned. “How can they research once we don’t have bread to eat? Survival is extra essential.”
Staff get the equal of $4 for each 1,000 bricks they make. One grownup working alone can’t do that quantity in a day, but when the youngsters assist, they’ll make 1,500 bricks a day, staff mentioned.
In accordance with surveys achieved by Save the Kids, the share of households saying they’d a toddler working outdoors the house grew from 18% to 22% from December to June. That may counsel greater than 1 million youngsters nationwide had been working. The surveys coated greater than 1,400 youngsters and greater than 1,400 caregivers in seven provinces. One other 22% of the youngsters mentioned they had been requested to work on the household enterprise or farm.
The survey additionally pointed to the collapse in livelihoods that Afghans have endured the previous 12 months. In June, 77% of the surveyed households reported they’d misplaced half their earnings or extra, in comparison with a 12 months in the past, up from 61% in December.
On one current day at one of many kilns, a lightweight rain began, and at first the children had been cheerful, considering it might be a refreshing drizzle within the warmth. Then the wind kicked up. A blast of mud hit them, coating their faces. The air turned yellow with mud. Among the youngsters couldn’t open their eyes, however they stored working. The rain opened up right into a downpour.
The youngsters had been soaked. One boy had water and dirt pouring off of him, however just like the others he mentioned he couldn’t take shelter with out ending his work. Streams from the driving rain carved out trenches within the filth round them.
“We’re used to it,” he mentioned. Then he advised one other boy, “Hurry up, let’s end it.”