Somalia: Nasir Ahmed - "I feel bad every time I see children my age going to school"

HARGEISA, More and more children are missing out on childhood as conflict continues in war-torn Somalia. Families who fled the violence have been separated from their children and, as poverty bites due to drought and hyperinflation, many children have taken to the streets to fend for their families. Nasir Ahmed, 12, is one such child in Hargeisa, the capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland.

Ahmed was born into a poor family and going to primary school was too expensive. Instead, he went to a Koranic school. However, even this came to an end when his father died in 2007. The family, comprising of Ahmed, four other children and mother, had to survive on whatever their mother made from selling vegetables in the market. Ahmed decided to work to help his mother. He spoke to IRIN on 20 October:

"After my father died, my mother started selling vegetables on a small table in the market but she was not making enough to feed us; so I decided to help.

"I started out as shoe-shine boy. Soon, I started washing cars. The owners trusted me with their cars so I would wipe off the dust from them and soon they would ask me to wash them. I realised I could make more money that way, so I stopped shining shoes and concentrated on washing cars.

"On average, I make about 40,000 [Somaliland shillings - about U$ 6.50] a day. Everything I make, I take it home to my mother.

"I told my mother to stop working and take care of the girls. I don't want to work but I have no choice; if I don't work we don't eat.

"If I had a choice and I had help finding food for the family, I would go to school. Every time I see children my age going to school I feel bad and wish I was going also.

"When I grow up, my dream is to become a teacher and help children like me.

"One day I pray that I would be in a position to not only help my family but also others like us enjoy a better life. I know I will not be doing this job for ever."