January 19, 2016 9:09 AM EST

At 13, Ali Modhar is the only member of his family with a job: he’s a butcher.

Ali’s family, originally from the Salahaddin or Saladin region around the city of Tikrit in Iraq, escaped to Khalakan in the east of Iraqi Kurdistan at the beginning of 2015 as violence between ISIS and the Iraqi army escalated.

In Salahaddin, Ali’s father ran a business selling palm trees and Ali was studying. But his father cannot speak Kurdish, and could not find a job in Khalakan. The family was able to find a source of income thanks to Ali’s friend Emad, 14, who helped him find a job at the butcher shop.

Every day, Ali starts working at 7:00 am and stops at 6:00 pm. He slaughters about 10-12 goats or sheep per day, for the daily wage of 3,000 Iraqi dinars (roughly $2.50) “I used to feel that I was a child,” said Ali. “Now that I’m working I feel that I am a man.”

At least 14 million children across Iraq and Syria have been affected from the escalating conflict sweeping Syria and much of Iraq, according to UNICEF.

“It has been eight months since I was displaced. And I feel that these eight months are years,” Ali said. “I would love to go back to school.”

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