Gul Ghotay and her daughter Naseema and Naseema's friend Latifa in blue.

Gul Ghotay, a widow lives with her two daughters and a son in Feristan IDP settlement. Her husband died five year ago. Her oldest son is separated and living in Herat with his family. Her second son has become an opium addicts and she doesn’t know about his fate anymore. Zalmay, 17, her youngest son and her lost hope has been affected with Tuberculosis TB in the settlement. The family was living in substandard makeshift home in the river bed of Feristan settlement. 

Though Zalmay is suffering from Tuberculosis, but he is the only breadwinner for his family of four. He has recently started selling sandwich in the market. 
 

“we weren’t bothered by heat neither were we cold in our village. We are suffering all the time since we have been displaced. My son was healthy and now he coughs for hours or sometimes he brings out all his clothes and the other time he feels cold and asking me to put all the blankets over him. He acts weirdly and sometimes he doesn’t want to eat for days. The doctors say he has to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and chicken meat, but the problem is that where can I get those all for him?”
 
“The doctors in Badghis told us to take him to Herat. We didn’t have enough to take him there. So I borrowed 10,000 AFN (Approx. $140) from my brother and took him there. The doctors give him some medicine and asked to visit them frequently.  Now I don’t have enough to take him in Herat or buy him medicine."


Zalmay, 17, is infected with tuberculosis in Feristan IDP settlement where he and his family lived for over five months. 

“I felt pain in the chest at the beginning and then was coughing. I didn’t tell my mom unless it got worst. I went to doctor and the doctors said I have been infected with tuberculosis. They gave me medicine for two months and asked me to visit them again. There have not been any changes or progress in my health. I still feel pain in my chest and coughing up blood.” 
Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Afghanistan

Moving into new tents

BADGHIS/Qala-e-naw: Naseema, 9, has spent five months under a sheet of plastic. The past month has been freezing cold. Now, the family is moving into an isolated winter tent.

On a barren ground, thousands of families have settled in a cluster of tents. The tented settlement is called Feristan and is located close to Qala-e-naw, the capital of the Badghis province in Afghanistan.

"Before we were displaced because of the drought, we were doing fine. We had a good and safe home. We had enough food, and we stayed warm throughout the winters. Life as displaced is incredibly hard. We’re suffering," says Gul Ghotay, and pulls the green blanket tighter around herself. Her family have survived yet another freezing night. During the night, the temperature had dropped to zero degrees Celsius.

From right to left: Naseema, 9, Gul Ghotay's second daughter and Naseema's friend Latifa (in blue) inside their makeshift home in Feristan IDP settlement. PHoto: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption Gul’s daughter Naseema, 9, and her friend Latifa (left) sits in the opening of Gul’s old tent. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

Bitter cold awaits

The Ghotay family is one of the thousands of families who have left their homes in northern and western Afghanistan because of ongoing conflict and lack of access to food. Prolonged drought has led to poor or failed crop harvests, and the livestock has died or been sold off in distress – usually at a paltry price as there is little meat on them.

Now, they are moving towards the bigger cities to survive. They’ve left behind or been forced to sell almost everything they owned as they moved. Winter is coming, and dropping temperatures and disease have already claimed their first deaths.

From right to left: Naseema, 9, Gul Ghotay's daughter and her friends, Dunya Gul and Mohammad Arif, warming their fingers in a cold day in Feristan IDP settlement in Qala-i-naw, Badghis. PHoto: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption Naseema, 9, Gul Ghotay’s daughter and her friends Dunya and Mohammad warm themselves by a campfire. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

"I’ve lived here for five months now, with my son and two daughters. My husband died five years ago. My eldest son has his own family, and my second eldest is a drug addict. I haven’t talked with him for years," Gul Ghotay tells us.

Her youngest son, 17-year-old Zalmay, is her last hope, but because of the hazardous conditions in the settlement, he has developed tuberculosis.

Although Zalmay is seriously ill, he is the one who provides for the family of four. Lately, he has made an income selling sandwiches at the market.

Gul Ghotay puts her finger prints at the bottom of paper to receive a tent from NRC in Qala-i-naw.

Gul Ghotay, a widow lives with her two daughters and a son in Feristan IDP settlement. Her husband died five year ago. Her oldest son is separated and living in Herat with his family. Her second son has become an opium addicts and she doesn’t know about his fate anymore. Zalmay, 17, her youngest son and her lost hope has been affected with Tuberculosis TB in the settlement. The family was living in substandard makeshift home in the river bed of Feristan settlement. 

Though Zalmay is suffering from Tuberculosis, but he is the only breadwinner for his family of four. He has recently started selling sandwich in the market. 
 

“we weren’t bothered by heat neither were we cold in our village. We are suffering all the time since we have been displaced. My son was healthy and now he coughs for hours or sometimes he brings out all his clothes and the other time he feels cold and asking me to put all the blankets over him. He acts weirdly and sometimes he doesn’t want to eat for days. The doctors say he has to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and chicken meat, but the problem is that where can I get those all for him?”
 
“The doctors in Badghis told us to take him to Herat. We didn’t have enough to take him there. So I borrowed 10,000 AFN (Approx. $140) from my brother and took him there. The doctors give him some medicine and asked to visit them frequently.  Now I don’t have enough to take him in Herat or buy him medicine."


Zalmay, 17, is infected with tuberculosis in Feristan IDP settlement where he and his family lived for over five months. 

“I felt pain in the chest at the beginning and then was coughing. I didn’t tell my mom unless it got worst. I went to doctor and the doctors said I have been infected with tuberculosis. They gave me medicine for two months and asked me to visit them again. There have not been any changes or progress in my health. I still feel pain in my chest and coughing up blood.” 
Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption Widower Gul Ghotay is analphabetic and signs using her fingerprints to get on NRC’s distribution list. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

Analphabetic

Gul has already been to NRC’s office and warehouse near the camp.

"I signed using my fingerprints because I’ve never been taught how to read or write," she explains.

Previously, the camp was located further down the valley, near a dry riverbed. In cooperation with local authorities, we moved all the families further up the valley, so they wouldn’t risk being caught by the water runoffs and mudslides when water levels rose throughout the autumn and winter.

Why they flee
  • Per 13 September, 266,000 people had been displaced due to prolonged drought.

  • The provinces that have been hit the hardest are Badghis (182,000 displaced) and Herat (84,000 displaced), which borders Iran.

  • 95 percent of the population in these provinces are farmers, dependent on crops and livestock to survive. Now, many have eaten the seeds they were supposed to sow and harvest, and they have sold their livestock to buy the food they need to survive.

  • According to the UN, an estimated 2.2 million people are affected by drought and are in need of aid.

  • Still, many people flee due to the unstable security situation in Afghanistan. The Taliban controls half of the country. More than 1,700 civilians were killed in the first six months of 2018, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. This is the highest number of civilian deaths from January until the end of June in over ten years.
  • The security situation also makes it difficult for the humanitarian organisations to reach some of the most draught-affected areas, which again leads to more families being forcibly displaced from their homes.
NRC team in Qala-i-naw assisting with unloading and hauling 735 tents for displaced families living in makeshift tents in Feristan IDP settlement in Badghis. The families have been displaced due recent drought and climate change and long lasting conflict in rural parts of Badghis. The tents are donated by ECHO. Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption Our staff distribute and set up the tents. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

Logistics and organisation

The truck with tents has arrived the camp, and our staff immediately begin unloading the tents.

NRC shelter advisor, Miriam Lopez, and team are on site busy demarcating the new location for the IDPs in Feristan2 settlement. The team assessed the suitability of the site for the IDPs and were just also creating more space for each family to have their tent home based on the agreed global criteria. Since many families use fire wood and another flammable material to keep themselves warm during the winter the team is also trying to create more space between the tents to prevent them from burning.  Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption NRC’s shelter adviser, Miriam Lopez, and her team mark the ground for the new tents. The team assess the suitability of the site and make sure there is enough space between the tents, to minimise the risk of a huge fire in the camp. Many families use open flames for cooking and staying warm. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

Our shelter adviser, Miriam Lopez, and her team have already marked the ground for the Ghotay family’s new tent.

"Our team assess the ground and also makes sure there’s enough space between the tents to minimise the risk of fire. The families use open flames for cooking and heating," Lopez explains.

Families are erecting tents in Feristan IDP settlement donated by NRC with support from ECHO. The Family Tent has 16 m2 main floor area, plus two 3.5m2 vestibules, for a total area of 23 m2, double-fold with ground sheet to house an entire family of eight. This family tents have a life span of 1 year, minimum, maintaining its sheltering and waterproofing capacities in all types of climates.
Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption Family and neighbours help each other set up the new tents. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

NRC is a key actor

Gul is pointed towards the location where her new tent will be set up. Her neighbours help us assemble it, and soon the brand new, white tent is set up, adding to the rows of new tents.

Read caption Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

The familiar orange logo of NRC is visible on the roofs of the tents.

This drone footage shows the size and scale of displaced family tents in one of the IDP settlement in Badghis. There are thousands of makeshift homes spread between mountain hills on the outskirt of Qala-i-naw city. 

An estimated 150 thousand families from rural areas of Badghis have left their homes for Qala-i-naw as the ongoing drought and climate change struck their villages. As of November, a total of 340,406 people have been affected by natural disasters throughout Afghanistan and out of that, 158,000 have been displaced only in Badghis province.  

Drought isn’t the only challenge that these families are fronting in the region; the deteriorating prolonged security situation has also added to their miseries. Many families can’t return to their homes fearing Taliban harassment and forced recruitment. The harsh winter conditions are a major challenge for the displaced families.

The families are living in seven different collective sites hoping to get humanitarian assistance. Many INGOs, including NRC and the UN bodies are involved in responding to the families. Based on UN OCHA, the first batch of 15,000 tents were delivered to Herat on 24 November. The distribution of tents in Badghis and Herat is underway by NRC and other NGOs for those who are in need of shelter. There will also be NFIs distribution for 10,000 households in both Herat and Badghis.
Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption A drone photo shows some of the size of the camps. The new white tents NRC sets up are easily recognisable in the terrain. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

From the air the tents make up clear, parallel lines, as if to testify that there is a thought-through plan to reduce the risk of fires and flooding. On the outer edge of the camp there are a series of latrines built in aluminium.

Gul Ghotay, a widow lives with her two daughters and a son in Feristan IDP settlement. Her husband died five year ago. Her oldest son is separated and living in Herat with his family. Her second son has become an opium addicts and she doesn’t know about his fate anymore. Zalmay, 17, her youngest son and her lost hope has been affected with Tuberculosis TB in the settlement. The family was living in substandard makeshift home in the river bed of Feristan settlement. 

Though Zalmay is suffering from Tuberculosis, but he is the only breadwinner for his family of four. He has recently started selling sandwich in the market. 
 

“we weren’t bothered by heat neither were we cold in our village. We are suffering all the time since we have been displaced. My son was healthy and now he coughs for hours or sometimes he brings out all his clothes and the other time he feels cold and asking me to put all the blankets over him. He acts weirdly and sometimes he doesn’t want to eat for days. The doctors say he has to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and chicken meat, but the problem is that where can I get those all for him?”
 
“The doctors in Badghis told us to take him to Herat. We didn’t have enough to take him there. So I borrowed 10,000 AFN (Approx. $140) from my brother and took him there. The doctors give him some medicine and asked to visit them frequently.  Now I don’t have enough to take him in Herat or buy him medicine."


Zalmay, 17, is infected with tuberculosis in Feristan IDP settlement where he and his family lived for over five months. 

“I felt pain in the chest at the beginning and then was coughing. I didn’t tell my mom unless it got worst. I went to doctor and the doctors said I have been infected with tuberculosis. They gave me medicine for two months and asked me to visit them again. There have not been any changes or progress in my health. I still feel pain in my chest and coughing up blood.” 
Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption Gul Ghotay and her daughter Naseema, 9,  help us set up their new home. A couple of hours later, we’re done, and the family can move in. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

Finally moving in

After five months in displacement, the Ghotay family can finally move into a properly isolated tent. Each tent is 23 square metres and has enough space for a family of six. The tents are waterproof and insulated with double walls and a quality bottom. The tents have a minimum lifespan of one year. Initially, we distribute 2,500 tents.

A boy in Feristan IDP settlement camp selling vegetables. “what else can I do here. some people have money and buy it and the rest are all asking it to pay in different installments. It is good. I’m happy. At least there will remain some for me at the end of the day to take home and cook.”  Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

Extreme needs

In the vicinity of the new tent, a boy has set up a simple sales stand where he offers onions and other vegetables. "There isn’t exactly an abundance of things one can do to earn a living here in the camp. Some families still have some money and can afford my goods. This way I’m able to make some money. What I can’t sell, my family eats," he says.

Displaced children staring at the eggs in fort of a small stall in Feristan IDP settlement. People have lost their saving and can’t afford buying meat and food for their children. They are usually taking food two times a day and that’s only boiled water with sugar and wheat bread.  Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

Some children have gathered around another sales stand in the camp. A young boy sends a long glance at some eggs that are offered up for sale. Few have money to buy anything: This is reflected by the product range. Meat is a luxury. The lucky ones eat two meals a day. Usually, the meals consist of boiled water with sugar and bread.

The sun is about to set. The children play with rocks and sticks. Some older men have gathered in groups, discussing loudly. The women sit just inside or outside the tents. They talk, prepare food and fetch firewood for the campfires.

When the sun starts going down the youth are gathering on the hill top just outside the Feristan camp for wrestling. The children are playing marbles during the day and the elders sit outside the makeshift homes, talking and talking for hours. The women and girls are sitting inside or outside their small and overcrowded makeshift tents and sometime prepare food when they have enough firewood.

“Most of us used to work on the agricultural fields and some were busy going to schools and Madrasas. And now, we have nothing to do during the day and no job opportunities at all. The city is also far from here to go and work and I think we are just abandoned here. we are wrestling to overcome the pressures and forget about our loans that we have taken,” said one of the wrestlers.   
Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

Tries to forget their problems

A group of young and older men have gathered on a ridge above the camp. They form a ring. Inside the ring, two young men have grabbed onto each other. Wrestling is the national sport in Afghanistan, and the men pass their time whilst jobless.

"Most of us had more than enough to do when we prepared and cultivated the land, and our children went to school. Here, there is neither work nor school. The city centre is far away, and we are left to ourselves. Therefore, we organise wrestling matches, in order to make the time to go by and to forget all the problems for a moment," says one participant.