Sultana, 24, (right in blue) and Hajira, 32, (left in dotted red)

 Sultana lost her three months daughter due to cold in one of the IDP settlement in Badghis, Afghanistan. The family have forced to come from Kharistan area to Qala-e-naw city due to sever drought some two months ago. 

"My little was fine before we left the village. We came here and slept in the open with only a tarpaulin over our head. My daughter got pneumonia at the beginning and latter she died," said her mother grieving.

"She cries all the day and often comes here to talk to me and forget about her daughter," Hajira mother of five said.

"She lost her daughter due to cold and it made me worried not losing my children," she adds. 

Hajira has five children and also a seven months pregnant. She asks for immediate shelter and winterization assistance as winter is looming. 

"We can't go back to our home because we can't find even a drop water as all wells and water sources have dried up," she said when we asked if they are planning to go back. Though the family do not have proper shelter in Sanjetak settlement, but they have been provided with water tracking and water tanks. 
PHoto: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption Sultana (in blue) recently had to bury her youngest daughter, who froze to death in the Afghan desert. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

Displaced by drought: Her daughter froze to death in the desert

Enayatullah Azad and Thale Jenssen|Published 18. Oct 2018
AFGHANISTAN/Badghis: Sultana, 24, recently had to bury her youngest daughter, who froze to death in the Afghan desert.

Thousands of families have settled in tents on an arid field in the northwestern Afghan desert. After four years of failed rains, hunger has forced them to flee. They are farmers, but have long since sold off the livestock that would have provided them with food through the winter. The cold has already claimed its first victims. The youngest children die first. Sultana’s daughter was only three months old.

"We came here and slept in the open with nothing but a tarpaulin over our head. My daughter first got pneumonia. Then she died," the young mother says, crying.

260,000 displaced by drought

Over 260,000 people have so far been displaced by drought across four provinces in western Afghanistan.

"We fear that cold and hungry children will be hit by winter illnesses leading to entirely preventable deaths," warns Chris Nyamandi, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) country director in Afghanistan.

Temperatures have already dropped close to zero degrees at night and the next few weeks will be really testing for families with freezing temperatures coming up. 

Read: Millions of Afghans face risks of drought-related displacement

Nazoo, 36, and her five children have been forced to flee from Qadis district to seek survival in provincial city of Qala-e-naw. Nazoo’s husband has gone to Iran for work and she alone takes care of her children. 

“When grass didn’t grow anymore and the water sources dried up, we understood that we must have a difficult year ahead. My husband sold out the livestock we had at home. He saved some cash for us and with the rest, he traveled to Iran.”

“Later, when we weren’t able to find anything to eat, along with other villagers we also decided to leave the home behind and come to Qala-i-naw.” 

“We could only bring some blankets, plates and teapots with us and the rest of our things are stored at home. I’m alone here and don’t have any roof over my head. I would like to go back home as soon as there is some hope.” 

“It has been two years that we live in this desert without any shelter and we have only received a bag of flour. I’m preparing seven to eight Naan everyday and that’s the only thing we eat with some tea or water.” 

“You can see, there is no shop here to buy some vegetables or rice, even if there was some, we wouldn’t be able to buy because we are running out of money," she ended. 

Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption Nazoo, 36, and her family were forced to flee the drought. "When grass didn’t grow anymore and the water sources dried up, we understood that we would have a difficult year ahead," she says. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC


The grass stopped growing

"When grass didn’t grow anymore and the water sources dried up, we understood that we would have a difficult year ahead," says Nazoo, 36.

Nazoo and her family were forced to flee their village. First, they sold the livestock and she and her husband shared the money between them. Then, he went to Iran to find work. Now, Nazoo has lived for two years in a tented settlement in the northwestern province of Badghis.

"We could only bring some blankets, plates and teapots. The rest of our belongings are stored at home."

Every day, she makes eight naan bread. Together with some tea or water, that’s the only thing she and her five children eat that day.

Some of the families could manage to take the remaining livestocks with them while escaping drought. Many families lost their livestocks or sold them away half price. Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption Ninety-five per cent of the population in the province rely on agriculture and livestock to survive. Many have already sold off their livestock and are now left without enough food to feed their families. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC


No more livestock to sell

Four years of failed rains have led to massive loss of livelihoods for half a million Afghans in Badghis. Ninety-five per cent of the population in the province rely on agriculture and livestock to survive. People have been left without enough food to feed their families. Now, they are fearing the coming winter.

"Some people sold all their animals to buy food last winter and now have nothing to sell or use to feed themselves," says Qamar Gul (35), who is staying with her family in a displacement site in Badghis.

Displaced woman erecting her makeshift tent at Sanjetak IDP settlement. 

Children at Sanjetak IDP settlement. Sanjetak IDP settlement located on the ring-road to Faryab and Balkh. Many people were moved from Qala-e-naw surrounding areas like Kharestan. Families moved in different dates but many were displaced in their villages before coming here. Some of the families were moved from Shamali Darya to here. Families interviewed said that they have come here due to gov’t encouragement. 
Woman we spoke in this settlement said she had lost her there-months daughter due to cold and respiratory causes and allegedly many babies were died due to cold. Families were asking for shelter, WASH and food assistance. The families here are provided with bag of flour and water trucking.  Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption People in the displacement settlements in Badghis are sleeping in flimsy makeshift shelters that are ill-equipped to withstand Afghanistan’s harsh winters. "Better shelters must be built, and food stocks put in place, so families can survive the freezing months ahead. We have to ensure Afghans survive this winter despite the odds," says NRC's country director in Afghanistan, Chris Nyamandi. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC


People in the displacement settlements in Badghis are sleeping in flimsy makeshift shelters that are ill-equipped to withstand Afghanistan’s harsh winters. In addition, once winter sets in, the dry river beds where many displaced families are settled will flow with water and flash floods will dangerously compound the already dire situation for drought-hit communities. Water-borne diseases may become rife, and claim the lives of already malnourished, cold, displaced children.

"Better shelters must be built, and food stocks put in place, so families can survive the freezing months ahead. We have to ensure Afghans survive this winter despite the odds," says Nyamandi.

Our work in the area

NRC is mapping the needs, distributing emergency shelters and setting up latrines and water tanks to assist displaced Afghans in the region.

NRC Camp Management and WASH staff speak to families who have escaped drought and conflict in their villages in Muqur district to get assistance in provincial center Qala-e-naw, Badghis.
PHoto: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption NRC is mapping the needs, distributing emergency shelters and setting up latrines and water tanks to assist displaced Afghans in the region. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC