What is your name?
Akhtar Mohammad.
How old are you? 
I don’t know 
Are you going to school? 
No.
Then what are you doing during the day? 
I’m collecting scarps on the streets. 

Akhtar a thirteen-years-old who deals with paper, notebooks and books all the day do not attend the class. Akhtar is an IDP child living in an IDP settlement in west Kabul. He and has family has fled conflict some two and half years ago from Kunduz province. Akhtar has five siblings. He and his father works on the streets collecting scraps. He usually collects Pepsi cans and papers. He sells the cans and brings the paper home to burn to make the house warm and also, to cook food. 
As the Afghan children are very delightful for the first winter snowfall on Friday and are playing and making snowballs; Akhtar has left the home with a bag to collect scraps. Akhtar and has family spent last winter in makeshift tents. NRC with generous support of DANIDA upgraded their shelter to fight against the freezing temperature this winter. Photo: NRC/Enayatullah AzaD
DISPLACED:

If you're a 13-year-old living in Afghanistan

If you're a 13-year-old living in Afghanistan you'll have lived your whole life in conflict and war. Most likely you face the threat of being displaced or you already live in displacement. This is the life of 13-year-old Akhtar Mohammad.

We meet him an early morning after a freezing night with heavy snow fall. A white soft carpet of snow is covering the makeshift tents in this informal settlement outside the west part of the capital Kabul. The settlement consists of around 50 families. Many of the families in the settlement have been living as refugees for many years in Pakistan, before they returned.

Akhtar and his family fled the conflict some two and half years ago from Kunduz province. He has five siblings. The thirteen-year-old works together with his father on the streets of Kabul collecting scraps.

Since the beginning of 2015, around three million Afghan refugees living in Iran and Pakistan have returned to Afghanistan, often to a fragile and uncertain future, according to The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Seven out of ten Afghan refugees who return home are forced to flee again due to violence, according to a report published by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and Samuel Hall. Many of them end up living in internal displacement.

Children continue to be disproportionately affected by the crisis

Children below 18, which counts for more than half the Afghan population, continue to be disproportionately affected by the crisis

Persistent violence, discrimination, and denial of access to essential services – particularly healthcare and education – have all undermined their right to a safe and secure early environment, compromising their physical and psychological well-being.

At the same time, a severe drought has left up to 3.9 million people in rural parts of the country in need of emergency food and livelihoods assistance and sparked a significant displacement crisis in the western region.

If you are 13-years-old living in Afghanistan, you are at risk of being exposed to many dangers:

Read caption Two-thirds: Almost two-thirds of Afghans live in areas directly affected by conflict. More than half of them are under 18 years. These two boys are entering a tented settlement for displaced in Bagdhis Province. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

# 1: Almost two-thirds of Afghans live in areas directly affected by conflict.

More than half of them are under 18 years (47.3 per cent of Afghanistan’s 35.7 million people are younger than 15 years). They are exposed to escalating violence, forced displacement, the loss of essential livelihoods and limited access to basic services.

Read caption LIVING IN A TENT. Bashir, 14, and his family are displaced by conflict and drought. They live in a tent in a settlement in the Bagdhis Province. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

# 2: Every minute one person is being displaced by conflict in Afghanistan.

UN OCHA estimates that some 500,000 Afghans may be newly displaced by conflict in 2019. More than half of them will be children under 18.

In addition, as many as 300,000 people could be uprooted by the drought, including a proportion of those already displaced in 2018.

Nazia, 11, taking care of her little sister Palwasha, wrapped in a thick blanket in one of the informal settlements in Kabul. The children are experiencing their third winter in this settlement. photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption THE TIRD WINTER. Nazia, 11, taking care of her little sister Palwasha, wrapped in a thick blanket in one of the informal settlements in Kabul. The children are experiencing their third winter in this settlement. Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad

# 3: More than one million displaced live in informal settlements.

More than 1.2 million internally displaced people across Afghanistan are living in informal settlements. More than half of them are children.

As many as two-thirds of all people displaced outside their province are moving towards the five regional capitals of Kabul, Nangarhar, Kandahar, Balkh and Herat.

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 FREEZING COLD. Mohammad, Dunya og Naseema are trying to warm themselves on the open fire. They belong to families who are displaced by conflict and drought. Now they live in a tented settlement in Bagdhis province. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

# 4: Six out of ten people requiring humanitarian and protection assistance are children.

6.3 million people require some form of humanitarian and protection assistance. 60 per cent of them are children. This includes 3.7 million in severe and major need.

The displaced children sweeping snow off around their makeshift tents in Kabul to stop them from sliding when it’s frozen. 
The first snowfall of the year is a happy news for millions of Afghans that have been badly hit by drought, but it adds misery to the life of thousands more living inside a plastic sheeting in the informal settlements in and around Kabul. 

"I was collecting scraps on the street and now the streets are blanketed with snowfall and we can't find things. i have stayed back at home and I will go back on the streets when the snow is melted," Said Agha Omar, 12. 

None of the children on the picture go to school. They are busy collecting plastics, papers and cans on the street. 
PHoto: NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption OUT OF SCHOOL. Agha Omar, 12, sweeping snow around their makeshift tents in Kabul. None of the children on the photo attend school. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

# 5: 3,7 million children are out of school

Out of the reported 3.7 million out-of-school-children in Afghanistan. 60 per cent are girls, and in some provinces as many as 85 per cent of girls are out-of-school.

Over 1,000 schools have been forcibly closed due to insecurity in 2018, affecting at one time more than 545,000 children.

Read also: NRC's report Education in Emergencies, Children in Distress.

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 IN NEED OF FOOD ASSISTANCE. Nazoo, 36, and her family had to leave their home because of conflict and drought. Now they live in a tented settlement outside the province capital of Bagdhis, depending on food assistance to survive. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

# 6: 4.5 million people need urgent food and livelihoods assistance.

The worsened security situation and the worst drought in a lifetime has led to large scale of food insecurity. In 2019, OCHA estimates that a total of 4.5 million people are in need of urgent food and livelihoods assistance.

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 DAUGHTER DIED. Sultana (in blue) recently had to bury her youngest daughter. "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. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

# 7: Three out of ten lack access to basic health services

Overall, 30 per cent of Afghans lack access to basic health services. Of those, people living in hard-to-reach districts are most likely to be deprived of essential primary health services

Read caption INJURED. An Afghan girl, who was injured in a bomb blast that targeted Green Village camp belonging to foreigners in Kabul, 15 January 2019. At least four persons were killed and 90 others, including 23 children, were injured. Photo: EPA/HEDAYATULLAH AMID/NTB Scanpix

# 8: More than two thousand children killed or injured first nine months of 2018.

Despite an overall decrease in the number of children killed and injured in the first nine months of 2018, casualties remain extremely high with 2,136 recorded. Of specific concern is the rise in deaths and injuries resulting from aerial strikes and suicide attacks, which now account for 49 per cent and 10 per cent.

Read caption ATTACK ON SCHOOLS. The picture shows students enrolled in our accelerated learning programme in Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan. In the same province, another school, Malikyar Hotak High School, was attacked in June 2018. Unknown men entered the school and beheaded three of our guards and set fire to the administrative block in the school. Photo: Sandra Calligaro/NRC

# 9: Children paying the mental costs

In addition to the physical costs imposed on children, the mental toll on those who have experienced stressful situations – now multi-dimensional in nature – has been considerable. Children who have witnessed extreme violence, including the killing or maiming of family members, frequently report disturbed memories and sleep, muteness, difficulty concentrating and aggressive behaviour as a result.  Only 2 out of 10 have access to services giving psychological support.

Naqibullah, 13, fled Kunduz with his eleven siblings two and half years ago, when the Kunduz provincial city was fallen to the Taliban. 
Naqib and his family now live in a shelter was built on a rented yard by NRC. His family was provided with protection through secure tenure for a defined period of time and essential household items. His family was provided with access to safe household latrines and hand washing facilities and have access to sanitary latrines and received hygiene promotion trainings.
But Naqib and none of his siblings are now having the chance to attend school. Naqib was in second class when his family was forced to return to Afghanistan. It’s been four years now that he has been missed out classes. 
Instead of attending class, he drives through the city with his bicycle and collecting scraps to help with family’s financial situation. 
“There is no hope and I don’t have any future if I continue living in this situation. I don’t know about my future. Maybe I will simply be a laborer.” 
Photo; NRC/Enayatullah Azad
Read caption NO FUTURE. Naqibullah, 13, fled Kunduz with his family almost three years ago. Instead of attending class, he drives through Kabul city with his bicycle collecting scraps to help with family’s financial situation. “There is no hope and I don’t have any future if I continue living in this situation. I don’t know about my future. Maybe I will simply be a labourer,” he says. Photo: NRC/Enayatullah Azad

# 10: More than half the population live below the poverty line

Approximately 54 per cent of the Afghan people now live below the poverty line (an increase of 16 per cent in the last five years).  At the same time a projected 480,000-600,000 young people are expected to enter the labour market each year until 2025. This is many more than the economy can absorb. Around 500,000 young males are already unemployed and 71 per cent of young people cite unemployment as the biggest problem they face.

 

Scource: OCHA report Humanitarian Needs Overview 2019.