Sahar Shabaan, 11- year-old school dropout, spends her days rummaging through garbage to support her family of six.
Living in the oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk, Shabaan, along with her two younger brothers, roam the streets on a tuktuk collecting cans and old metal pieces which they sell to cover their modest living expenses.
Sahar braves difficult weather conditions to compensate the loss of income the family faces as a result of her father’s illness which prevents him from working, making him totally dependent on her.
“It’s been more than a year and a half, two years, since I received medical treatment because I can’t afford it. Sahar can hardly secure the needs of the house and the rent,” said Shabaan’s father, Shaaban Hussein.
On some days, Sahar earns a meagre 1,000 Iraqi dinars ($0.75), barely enough to secure medication for her father, food for the house, and rent.
Yet, despite the difficulties she faces, Sahar wishes that one day she and her brothers can resume their schooling.
“I always get irritated whenever I see my friends going (to school) but this is life. Every person definitely has the desire to study but my father is ill and I cannot abandon him and go to school. My brothers are still young and they need to study. I want them to go back to school,” she said.
It is a wish unlikely to materialise in the near future. Not until her father is treated and able to work again.
“I will continue working until my father is treated and can see again. Until we have a house and can stop working,” Sahar added.
Iraq’s economy has been battered by years of wars, sanctions and Islamist insurgency triggered by the U.S. invasion. These troubles were further exacerbated by months of lockdown due to the coronavirus.
According to UNICEF, 7.3 percent of Iraqi children aged between 5 to 17 were engaged in various forms of child labour, including dangerous and exploitive work, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
(Production: Ako Rasheed, Maher Nazeh, Muath Freij)