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These Photos Of Children Working Afghanistan's Streets Will Break Your Heart

With poverty soaring in Afghanistan, many children work on the street to help support their families.

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Rada Akbar, a photographer based in Kabul, shared with BuzzFeed a series of portraits of students working on the street. She worked on this project for over a month with permission from the children's parents.

With thousands of children working in Kabul, the subjects were easy to find. Poverty is the main motivating factor, with children helping support their families, at times forsaking school to do so.

Akbar intentionally changed the photo backgrounds to black to force the viewer to focus on the faces of the children.

"I want people to look deep into their eyes and feel the pain they are having so that [it] might make them consider this issue. The least they can do is to respect them if nothing else they can do."

Heshmat, 8

Rada Akbar

Heshmat is in second grade and has been working as a vendor for one year. He says: "During school I had to work half day but during my break school I have to work all day and it makes me very tired because I have to work about 8 hours and when its cold it is even worse. My father says I do not have to work when he gets high salary job and everyday I pray for him to get a better job as I will not have to work then."

Bakhtawara, 11

Rada Akbar

Her family was displaced from Helmand six years ago. She has been working as a garbage collector for five years now. She couldn't attend school, as she has to work and help her family. Bakhtawara works 8 to 10 hours and earns around 100 afghanis ($2) daily.

Bazira, 8

Rada Akbar

Bazira's family was displaced from Helmand seven years ago. She has been working as a garbage collector for three years now. She couldn't attend school, as she has to work and help her family. Bazira works 8 to 10 hours and earns around 100 afghanis ($2) daily.

Zahara, 6

Rada Akbar

Zahara's family was displaced from Ghazni two years ago. She has been working as an espandi (blessing people with the smoke of esfand, a plant) for one year now. She couldn't attend school, as she has to work and help her family. Zahara works 8 to 10 hours and earns around 50 to 70 afghanis ($1 to $1.50) daily.

Jawed, 7, Jafar, 5, and Hussain, 6

Rada Akbar

Their family was displaced from Ghazni three years ago. The brothers have been working as espandis for a year and a half now. They cannot attend school, as they have to work from morning until night to help their family.

Jawed says, "None of us are happy to work outside as we have been beaten up by some people in the street and sometimes people snatch our money. My wish is to become a pilot but my parents say we cannot go to school as they cannot afford it."

Obaid, 13

Rada Akbar

Obaid is a sixth-grade student who started a car wash five years ago to help his family. He says: "My scores are not good at school because I do not have enough time to study and sometimes, when we run out of food, I have to miss my school to work for more hours."

Ebrahim, 14

Rada Akbar

Seventh-grader Ebrahim started working at the age of seven. He has been working in different shops for years. He has recently started selling balloons, as he believes that he can earn more money to help his family.

Khesraw, 8

Rada Akbar

Khesraw is in the second grade and has been working as a balloon seller for two years now. He says: "I have had such tough days in the beginning but now I am used to it and I know how to deal with people in the streets."

Obaid earns 100 afghanis ($2) per day if he works hard.

Senzela, 7

Rada Akbar

She has lived in a refugee camp in a slum of Kabul since her family was displaced from Zabul three years ago. She says: "I have been working as a garbage collector for two years now. I am not happy to work out as most of the time people bother me and snatch my money. Sometimes men chase me and ask me to go with them and I escape from them as I know they are bad people and they can harm me."

Khush Bakhta, 9

Rada Akbar

Her family was displaced from Nimruz seven years ago, and she's been working as a garbage collector for four years now. She says: "I do not know what I want for my future. All I know is that I have to work and earn money as much as I can to give it to my family. My father is disabled and I don't have a big brother so I think I have so much responsibility to help my family."

Gul Yar, 12

Rada Akbar

Gul Yar is in fourth grade and has been working as a garbage collector for five years now. He says: "I failed school two years as I had to work and help my family. Sometimes I am hopeful for my future and I dream about it but when I get exhausted by work I become hopeless and I lose my passion for study."

Naweed, 8

Rada Akbar

Naweed is in second grade and has been working as a cobbler for two years. He says: "Last year some of my classmates saw me working on the street and afterward they started making fun about me and sometimes it hurt me badly but I couldn't quit my job as I had to support my family. One day my teacher discovered about my job and she gifted me notebooks and pens and she said I shouldn't be ashamed of what I do so I changed my mind to quit my school. I want to become a teacher and help those children who have to work like me."

Eshaq, 13

Rada Akbar

Eshaq, who's in the sixth grade, has been working as a mechanic at a roadside makeshift garage for four years. He says, "When I was younger and I did not have to work I would play soccer with my friends and I wanted to become a soccer player but since I am working here I do not see a bright future for myself. I think I will end up in this garage and that discourage me of studying hard."

Saifullah, 8

Rada Akbar

Saifullah is a third-grade student and has been working in a plant shop for over a year now. When he isn't helping with selling plants, he does other chores like fetching water for the plants and cleaning the shop. His weekly salary is 200 afghanis ($4). Saifullah dreams of becoming a doctor in the future.

Mustafa, 12

Rada Akbar

A sixth-grade student, Mustafa has been working in a plant shop for over six years now. His weekly salary is 500 afghanis ($10). Mustafa dreams of becoming an engineer someday.

Kate Bubacz is a Senior Photo Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Kate Bubacz at kate.bubacz@buzzfeed.com.

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