Winter is bringing yet more hardship and misery to displaced families in Afghanistan. Their situation is worsening daily – with over half the population now facing extreme levels of hunger and almost nine million people at risk of famine.
Among them are eight-year-old Hajira* and her brother Matiullah*, originally from the northern city of Kunduz. Their police officer father was killed five years ago and their home was bombed and looted by the Taliban. So they fled with their mother and older sister to Kabul and now make what little money they can by selling plastic bags at the market.
“I would love to go back if we had a better life,” confesses Matiullah. But right now, he’s just doing whatever it takes to survive. On a good day, he and Hajira might sell about ten plastic bags and come home with a few coins between them. But it’s barely enough to buy the basics – and he says, “Mostly, people help me by giving me some money.”
Every day sees more and more people like Matiullah begging on the streets of Kabul – many of them newly arrived in the city. Nearly 700,000 Afghans have fled their homes since the beginning of 2021, taking the total number of displaced people in the country to more than 3.5 million. And these families are in urgent need of support as winter starts to bite and temperatures could plunge as low as –25⁰C.
UNHCR has been working hard in Afghanistan to save lives and ease suffering – reaching 60,000 people a week and providing them with thermal blankets and warm winter clothing, as well as plastic sheeting and insulation materials to help weather-proof makeshift shelters.
Vulnerable families are also being given cash assistance to buy fuel and other winter essentials – and this emergency relief is set to continue all through the coldest months and well into 2022.
*Names have been changed for protection reasons