"The best gift ever"

“We have suffered a lot from the cold. Dad said we would get a heater in our new house soon. This is the best gift ever,” say the two Afghan sisters Salima, 6, and Samira, 5, as they move closer to the wood-burning stove.

We meet their father Ewaz, 45, as the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is giving cash assistance to displaced families who need help staying warm through the winter. Each family receives 15,700 Afghani, equivalent to USD 200. Winter has set in with snow and sub-zero temperatures, and the first reports of children freezing to death have already come in.

Read caption Ewaz (right) has just received 20,000 Afghani, equivalent to about USD 255, to keep his family warm throughout the winter.


NRC winterization assistance and shelter upgrades in 2019 has been supported by the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AHF).

The family is one of many fleeing from the conflict-stricken Balkh province.

“When armed groups attacked our village, we were forced to leave everything we owned.”

Along with about 570 other families, Ewaz, his wife and six daughters have settled on a barren field five kilometres north of the city of Mazar-i-Sharif. 

“We arrived about a year ago. First, we lived in a tent. Then we were given this plot. We spent last winter in an earthen hut in the corner of the plot. This is where our youngest daughter was born.”

We accompany Ewas to the market in the city where he buys a simple wood stove for 1,700 Afghani, equivalent to USD 20. 

Read caption Salima and Samira want to help their father bring the stove and wood into the house.

At home, the children are waiting excitedly for their father to return home. As Ewaz approaches the house, his daughters Salima and Samira run out to meet him. They want to help carry.

There is already a hole in the roof for the chimney, and they are ready to light the stove in less than 30 minutes. It doesn’t take long for the dry sticks to catch fire.

Read caption Salima and Samira can finally enjoy the heat from the wood stove, which can also be used for cooking.

Go to bed hungry

What worries Ewaz most now is their lack of money for food and his daughters’ education.

“I only went school for a few months, myself, and I can neither read nor write. When the teachers fled during the war, our village was left without a school. My hope is that my daughters will not experience the same fate.”

Read caption Ewaz on his way to the market with his wheelbarrow. For a day’s work, he earns a little money to buy some bread or vegetables. To the left of the picture is the earthen hut where the family spent last winter. Azad Enayatullah

Every morning, Ewaz goes to the market with his wheelbarrow. He earns about 100 Afghani, around USD 1.30, a day for transporting goods home for others.

“I earn only enough for bread or a few vegetables. Many times, we have nothing to eat at all, and the girls often have to go to bed hungry. The is nothing left over that we can spend on medicine or transport to bring the children to school.”

From tent to house

Salima and Samira and the rest of the children have felt the cold in their bones for a long time. Now, with money from NRC, they have finally been able to finish the roof and install a door and a window in their small one-room house.

“Thanks to this wood stove and fuel, we will be able to manage through the winter. I built the house with my own two hands,” he says proudly.

The two sisters move closer to the stove. They reach out their small, cold hands. Little by little, the heat spreads into the simple one-room house, which is built of clay mixed with straw. The girls look at each other, giggle and laugh.

“The children have been freezing and have often been ill due to the cold. We didn’t have money for medicines or transport to the hospital. So it’s no wonder they appreciate having a heater in the house,” says Ewas, smiling happily.

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