AP PHOTOS: Backbreaking work for kids in Afghan brick kilns

Sep 21, 2022, 11:04 AM | Updated: Sep 22, 2022, 10:14 pm
A 9-year-old Afghan girl works in a brick factory on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday,...

A 9-year-old Afghan girl works in a brick factory on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. Aid agencies say the number of children working in Afghanistan is growing ever since the economy collapsed following the Taliban takeover more than a year ago. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Nabila works 10 hours or more a day, doing the heavy, dirty labor of packing mud into molds and hauling wheelbarrows full of bricks. At 12 years old, she’s been working in brick factories half her life now, and she’s probably the oldest of all her co-workers.

Already high, the number of children put to work in Afghanistan is growing, fueled by the collapse of the economy after the Taliban took over the country and the world cut off financial aid just over a year ago.

A recent survey by Save the Children estimated that half of Afghanistan’s families have put children to work to keep food on the table as livelihoods crumbled.

Nowhere is it clearer than in the many brick factories on the highway north out of the capital, Kabul. Conditions in the furnaces are tough even for adults. But in almost all of them, children as young as four or five labor alongside their families from early in the morning until dark in the heat of summer.

Children do every step of the brickmaking process. They haul cannisters of water, carry the wooden brick molds full of mud to put in the sun to dry. They load and push wheelbarrows full of dried bricks to the kiln for firing, then push back wheelbarrows full of fired bricks. Everywhere they are lifting, stacking, sorting bricks. They pick through the smoldering charcoal that’s been burned in the kiln for pieces that can still be used, inhaling the soot and singeing their fingers.

The kids work with a determination and a grim sense of responsibility beyond their years, born out of knowing little else but their families’ need. When asked about toys or play, they smile and shrug. Only a few have been to school.

Nabila, the 12-year-old, has been working in brick factories since she was five or six. Like many other brick workers, her family works part of the year at a kiln near Kabul, the other part at one outside Jalalabad, near the Pakistani border.

A few years ago, she got to go to school a little in Jalalabad. She’d like to go back to school but can’t — her family needs her work to survive, she said with a soft smile.

“We can’t think about anything else but work,” she said.

Mohabbat, a 9-year-old boy, stopped for a moment with a pained expression as he carried a load of charcoal. “My back hurts,” he said.

Asked what he wished for, he first asked, “What is a wish?”

Once it was explained, he was quiet a moment, thinking. “I wish to go to school and eat good food,” he said, then added: “I wish to work well so that we can have a house.”

The landscape around the factories is bleak and barren, with the kilns’ smokestacks pumping out black, sooty smoke. Families live in dilapidated mud houses next to furnaces, each with a corner where they make their bricks. For most, a day’s meal is bread soaked in tea.

Rahim has three children working with him at a brick kiln, ranging in age from 5 to 12. The kids had been in school, and Rahim, who goes by one name, said he had long resisted putting them to work. But even before the Taliban came to power, as the war went on and the economy worsened, he said he had no choice.

“There’s no other way,” he said. “How can they study when we don’t have bread to eat? Survival is more important.”

Workers get the equivalent of $4 for every 1,000 bricks they make. One adult working alone can’t do that amount in a day, but if the children help, they can make 1,500 bricks a day, workers said.

According to surveys by Save the Children, the percentage of families saying they had a child working outside the home grew from 18% to 22% from December to June. That would suggest more than 1 million children nationwide were working. Another 22% of the children said they were asked to work on the family business or farm.

The surveys covered more than 1,400 children and more than 1,400 caregivers in seven provinces. They also pointed to the swift collapse in Afghans’ livelihoods. In June, 77% of the surveyed families reported they had lost half their income or more compared to a year ago, up from 61% in December.

On one recent day at one of the kilns, a light rain started, and at first the kids were cheerful, thinking it would be a refreshing drizzle in the heat. Then the wind kicked up. A blast of dust hit them, coating their faces. The air turned yellow with dust. Some of the children couldn’t open their eyes, but they kept working. The rain opened up into a downpour.

The kids were soaked. One boy had water and mud pouring off of him, but like the others he said he couldn’t take shelter without finishing his work. Streams from the driving rain carved out trenches in the dirt around them.

“We’re used to it,” he said. Then he told another boy, “Hurry up, let’s finish it.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Photo from Flickr...
Associated Press

Respite center opens to families of those who died in combat

A respite center for families in the United States who have lost loved ones in combat since 9/11 will open Friday on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula.
13 hours ago
Downtown Vancouver Washington Photo from Flickr...
Associated Press

Vancouver City Council bans large fossil fuel facilities

The city council in Vancouver, Washington, has approved a permanent ban on new fossil fuel developments after years of temporary moratoriums.
13 hours ago
This artist sketch depicts the trial of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and four others charged ...
Associated Press

Ex-Oath Keeper: Group leader claimed Secret Service contact

WASHINGTON (AP) — Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes told a member of the extremist group before the 2020 election that he had a contact in the Secret Service, a witness testified Thursday in Rhodes’ Capitol riot trial. John Zimmerman, who was part of the North Carolina chapter, said Rhodes told him that Rhodes had a […]
13 hours ago
The symbol for Twitter appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tu...
Associated Press

Musk lawyers say Twitter refusing new $44B bid for company

NEW YORK (AP) — Elon Musk’s lawyers said Thursday that Twitter is refusing the Tesla billionaire’s renewed $44 billion bid for the social media company and have asked a Delaware court to halt an upcoming trial. Musk made a renewed offer to take over to company earlier this week to end a protracted legal dispute […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Philadelphia apologizes for experiments on Black inmates

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The city of Philadelphia issued an apology Thursday for the unethical medical experiments performed on mostly Black inmates at its Holmesburg Prison from the 1950s through the 1970s. The move comes after community activists and families of some of those inmates raised the need for a formal apology. It also follows a […]
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Prison reform advocate gets 40-year sentence in jail scheme

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A longtime prison reform advocate was sentenced to 40 years behind bars on Thursday following his conviction for hiding guns, ammunition, handcuff keys and hacksaw blades inside the walls of Nashville’s new jail while it was being built. Judge Steve Dozier sentenced 53-year-old Alex Friedmann after a jury found him guilty […]
13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
AP PHOTOS: Backbreaking work for kids in Afghan brick kilns