In Afghanistan, childhood is often a full-time job

Sami Rahimi sleeps fitfully on a bread rack above the bakery’s cold concrete floor. He rises at 5 a.m., sweeps up, washes in a pan of chilly water, then prays. Before the sun has risen, Sami is pushing a dented wheelbarrow through the dim streets, at 13 still a tiny figure among the vegetable hawkers and butchers slicing bloody flanks of sheep from carcasses hung on hooks. He gathers water from a public well and takes it back to the bakery.

By 6 a.m., the gas-fired stone kiln is glowing a fiery red, ready to bake the flat loaves known as khasa and the round loaves called kamachi. Sami sweeps a platform where hot flatbread is stacked for sale. He then sits cross-legged to begin selling loaves for 10 afghanis, about 20 cents each, to customers who thrust bills through a window that he opens and closes with a long metal hook.

Working until dark six days a week, Sami earns about $80 a month, enough to support his entire family: disabled father, mother, three brothers and five sisters. Sami has been at the bakery since he was 10, when he rode a bus from the countryside to assist his uncle, Yar Mohammed, who himself began at age 8. “I’m happy I can support my family, but I would rather go to school and be an educated person,” Sami says. He shrugs as he flips over a steaming loaf with his hook, a weary gesture that makes him seem old and careworn.

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Millions of children hard at work in India

 Across the globe more than 150 million children between age five and 14 are involved in child labour, while India is home to the highest number of working children in the world. On International Day Against Child Labour on Friday, attempts are under way to put a stop to it. In India, more than 28 million children have jobs, according to UNICEF estimates. India’s current child labour law prohibits children under the age of 14 from being employed in hazardous jobs. However, in May this year, rather than encouraging a complete abolition of child labour in the country, the cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved only amendments to the law.

Hunger and child abandonment in north South Sudan

Three-hundred children in South Sudan’s Northern Bahr El Ghazal region have been abandoned by parents fleeing the country to escape two years of drought, a collapsing economy, and mass hunger. The UN World Food Program (WFP) and UNICEF brought Al Jazeera to a mosque run by the Northern Bahr El Ghazal Islamic Council in the town of Majook, close to South Sudan’s border with Sudan, where the children are forced to reside after their parents abandoned them to make the journey north alone. WFP said 5.3 million people in South Sudan are at risk of acute hunger, nearly half the population, which is already causing deaths among the country’s most vulnerable, and increasing the number of people fleeing across the border to neighbouring Sudan. Recent fighting between the country’s President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar’s opposing armies has exacerbated problems in providing aid.
Henry Wilkins