Hasibullah, 4, is Salma's brother.

"He has only one Jacket and I washed that thinking it won't snow sometimes soon," says her mother. "No he has to wait until it gets dried." 
"I'm afraid he might get sick as he doesn't have any spare jacket and he doesn't stay at home. he gets out every now and then to play with his friends and enjoy the snow." ended her mother. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC
AFGHANISTAN

Kabul hit by cold and snow

"I only have one jacket, but my mum washed it and it's not dry. So now I freeze," says Hasibullah, 4.

We meet four-year-old Hasibullah in the early morning hours after a biting cold night of heavy snowfall with sub-zero temperatures reaching -16 C. A white blanket of snow has settled over the tents of Hiwadwal, an informal settlement on the outskirts of the capital, Kabul. It is just one of many such settlements in Kabul.

Last year, NRC built 154 new houses and upgraded the homes of 330 other internally displaced families in and around the capital, Kabul. Some of these houses are in the settlement of Hiwadwal.

Most of the families living here have been displaced by conflict in the war-torn country. Some are new arrivals, while others have lived like this for years. Some lived as refugees in neighbouring Pakistan before returning home, only to be forced to flee their homes once more.

Two-thirds of all of those displaced from their home provinces have sought protection in the regional capitals, such as Kabul, Nangarhar, Kandahar, Balkh and Herat.

"I hadn't expected there would be snow when I washed his jacket. It's not yet dry. That's the only jacket he's got. Now I'm afraid he's going to get sick. He wants to be out and play in the snow with other kids, but I'm afraid he's going to get sick," says Hasibullah's mother.

“It was very cold inside and I thought if I go outside and walk I might feel warmer,” says Roqia, 11, standing outside her makeshift home in a snowy day in KABUL. 

Rogia doesn’t have enough clothes and proper slippers to keep her warm in a cold. Her family do not have sufficient firewood to keep the oven burning all the time and they only burn it once in a day and if the weather is freezing cold, they might burn it twice in a day. They burn plastics, cartons, packets and other waste materials they have collected during the summer season. 
“The house we have is out of plastic bags, blankets and mud. As soon as the oven dies the home gets cold,” she says. “It’s very cold during the night and we wakeup many times due to cold. Sometimes, I feel pain and burn in my feet, legs and back due to the cold.” 

Kabul gets very cold during the winter and last night only, the temperature dropped to -16 Celsius. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/ NRC
Read caption “It’s very cold inside. I thought it might be warmer if I went out and moved around a little,” says Raquia, 11. Photo: Azad Enayatullah

In the same neighbourhood we meet eleven-year-old Raqia. She stands outside her family’s home, wrapped in a blanket. Underneath, all she has on are thin summer clothes, with nothing on her feet but a pair of simple plastic sandals – and no socks.

“These are the only clothes and shoes I have,” she says, pulling the blanket tightly around her.

More than 1.2 million internally displaced people all over Afghanistan live in tent and shanty towns, so-called informal settlements. More than half of them are children under the age of 18.

Her modest home consists only of plastic, tarpaulin, rugs and clay. “We have a simple stove, but we have no fuel. We burn cardboard and plastic that we collected during the summer, but it is not enough to keep us warm. We usually fire up the stove once a day, but when it’s cold like now, we often light the stove twice a day.”

As soon as the heat from the stove dies out, it gets freezing cold. “It is very cold at night and I wake up early because I’m so cold. My feet are like ice, and sometimes I lose the feeling in my toes,” she says, looking down at her frozen feet.

We also meet nine-year-old Salma outside the family's small house. She's wearing a thin red sweater. We're asking way she isn't in school today.

"No, I'm not going to school," she answers.

She insted spends her days collect plastic and cardboard cartons, which the family uses as fuel for their stove.

NRC shelter and WASH team doing a walkabout in Hiwadwal IDP Settlement in Kabul on a snowfall day. It’s first winter snow in Kabul and thousands of IDP families are living in substandard makeshift making them disposed to freezing temperature. Photo: Enayatullah Azad / NRC
Read caption A team from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is at the settlement, going door-to-door to obtain an overview of the damage after the snowfall.

After heavy snowfall and temperatures down to nearly -20 C, it has been reported that many of the tents and houses in these settlements have collapsed. NRC sent out a team to gain an overview of the damage and the need for help.

Shahnaz makeshift home collapsed under the weight of heavy snow in an informal settlement in eastern Kabul this week. The family is now forced to live with neighbors as the temperature drops up to -20C during the night. 

Shahnaz, 34, a widow was sleeping with her three children when the roof of their substandard makeshift home fill in onto them and now, she stays with three other families in shared two-room house in the camp. 

“We were in deep sleep when the beam broke and the roof collapsed over us. I grabbed my children to protect and start shouting then the neighbors rushed to help us,” Shahnaz said. Several makeshift homes have reportedly collapsed during the last snow fall and many families are either staying with neighbors or with relatives. NRC with support from donors, German Development Bank (KFW) and Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) improved and upgraded 330 shelters and built another 154 permanent homes across the capital, Kabul. Our team have observed that many of these upgraded homes are hosting more than one family. 

Shahnaz and her three children are now staying with one of the neighbors. “Thanks God, we are not alone here and if the government is not being able to support us, the people do care about each other with their little in hand,” she says. 

The mother says she begs on the streets to protect her children. “The two biggest challenges we were facing was food and the cold and now, shelter is also included on the list,” she added. Photo: Enayatullah Azad / NRC
Read caption Shahnaz and her son outside their neighbour’s house where they now live.

Soon, the team meets Shahnaz, 34, a widow and mother of three. “I was sleeping with my three children when the roof suddenly collapsed on top of us. Fortunately, no one was hurt. I called for help and shortly afterwards our neighbour showed up to help us,” she says.

Shahnaz makeshift home collapsed under the weight of heavy snow in an informal settlement in eastern Kabul this week. The family is now forced to live with neighbors as the temperature drops up to -20C during the night. 

Shahnaz, 34, a widow was sleeping with her three children when the roof of their substandard makeshift home fill in onto them and now, she stays with three other families in shared two-room house in the camp. 

“We were in deep sleep when the beam broke and the roof collapsed over us. I grabbed my children to protect and start shouting then the neighbors rushed to help us,” Shahnaz said. Several makeshift homes have reportedly collapsed during the last snow fall and many families are either staying with neighbors or with relatives. NRC with support from donors, German Development Bank (KFW) and Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) improved and upgraded 330 shelters and built another 154 permanent homes across the capital, Kabul. Our team have observed that many of these upgraded homes are hosting more than one family. 

Shahnaz and her three children are now staying with one of the neighbors. “Thanks God, we are not alone here and if the government is not being able to support us, the people do care about each other with their little in hand,” she says. 

The mother says she begs on the streets to protect her children. “The two biggest challenges we were facing was food and the cold and now, shelter is also included on the list,” she added. Photo: Enayatullah Azad / NRC
Read caption Shahnaz’s house is not the only one to have suffered major damage as a result of the heavy snowfall. Many families have moved in with helpful neighbours.

“Thank God we are still alive, and that fortunately we have good neighbours. They have welcomed us, even though they don’t have much room. Now the children and I live with three other families in a small two-room house.”

Shahnaz makeshift home collapsed under the weight of heavy snow in an informal settlement in eastern Kabul this week. The family is now forced to live with neighbors as the temperature drops up to -20C during the night. 

Shahnaz, 34, a widow was sleeping with her three children when the roof of their substandard makeshift home fill in onto them and now, she stays with three other families in shared two-room house in the camp. 

“We were in deep sleep when the beam broke and the roof collapsed over us. I grabbed my children to protect and start shouting then the neighbors rushed to help us,” Shahnaz said. Several makeshift homes have reportedly collapsed during the last snow fall and many families are either staying with neighbors or with relatives. NRC with support from donors, German Development Bank (KFW) and Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) improved and upgraded 330 shelters and built another 154 permanent homes across the capital, Kabul. Our team have observed that many of these upgraded homes are hosting more than one family. 

Shahnaz and her three children are now staying with one of the neighbors. “Thanks God, we are not alone here and if the government is not being able to support us, the people do care about each other with their little in hand,” she says. 

The mother says she begs on the streets to protect her children. “The two biggest challenges we were facing was food and the cold and now, shelter is also included on the list,” she added. Photo: Enayatullah Azad / NRC
Read caption Shahnaz and her three children are boarding with their neighbour, who was already sharing their small two-room house with two other families.

Shahnaz begs on the street in Kabul to provide food for herself and her three children. Now, she has had another challenge to overcome.

“The two biggest challenges we were facing were food and cold. Now I can add the lack of roof over our heads to my list of worries.”

Mirwais, 42, is taking his one and half year-old son Ramin, to a doctor. Ramin has been suffering headache, fever and abdominal pain in the past three days. “he has been suffering in the past three days and I was hoping he could get well without being taken to the doctor. I can’t afford their medicine and he is the second one I’m taking to the doctor,” Said Mirwais.

Kabul and major parts of Afghanistan is blanketed in snow and Mirwais and thousands other displaced men who are earning through daily wages can’t find anymore to protect their families. 

“We can’t afford fuel or firewood to warm the room and cook. All we burn is plastics and cartons and that makes our children sick,” said Mirwais. Photo: Enayatullah Azad / NRC
Read caption Mirwais and his son Ramin on their way to the doctor.

We also meet Mirwais, 42. He is on his way to the doctor with his one-and-a-half-year-old son, Ramin. He has had a fever, headaches and abdominal pain for the past three days.

“I had hoped that the pain would subside and that I wouldn’t have to take him to the doctor. I have no money for medicine and this is the second time this winter that I have had to bring one of our children to the doctor."

Mirwais, 42, is taking his one and half year-old son Ramin, to a doctor. Ramin has been suffering headache, fever and abdominal pain in the past three days. “he has been suffering in the past three days and I was hoping he could get well without being taken to the doctor. I can’t afford their medicine and he is the second one I’m taking to the doctor,” Said Mirwais.

Kabul and major parts of Afghanistan is blanketed in snow and Mirwais and thousands other displaced men who are earning through daily wages can’t find anymore to protect their families. 

“We can’t afford fuel or firewood to warm the room and cook. All we burn is plastics and cartons and that makes our children sick,” said Mirwais. Photo: Enayatullah Azad / NRC
Read caption Ramin has been ill with a fever, headaches and abdominal pain for the past three days.

In total, 30 per cent of Afghans lack access to the most basic health services. And those who live in the hardest-hit areas, where humanitarian aid organisations struggle to gain access, are the ones who suffer the most.

Mirwais is worried about his children. “We can’t afford fuel or firewood to heat our house or cook. The only fuel we have is plastic and cardboard boxes. This is very toxic and makes the children sick,” he says, as he hurries on through the snow drifts to the doctor.

Shawan, 6, and his siblings are living a mud house in Hiwadwal IDP settlement in Kabul. The family was living under a substandard makeshift shelter last winter. NRC with support from German Development Bank (KFW) and Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA)
 improved and upgraded 330 shelters, including Shawan and his family’s home. NRC has also provided another 154-permanent home for internally displaced and refugee-returnee families in and outside Kabul this summer. Shawan and his family are very happy that have been protected during this harsh winter weather. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC
Read caption Shawan, 6, belongs to one of the many families who have received help to repair their house.

In the same neighbourhood, we meet Shawan, 6. Last winter he also lived in a home made of plastic, rugs and clay. But last year, NRC built 154 new houses and upgraded the homes of 330 other internally displaced families in and around the capital, Kabul. Shawan’swas one of those families.

“Now we don’t have to freeze and can keep warm indoors,” he says, waving to us through the window of the new house.

After the most recent snowfall, NRC’s team can see that many of these houses now accommodate more than just one family.

NRC shelter and WASH team doing a walkabout in Hiwadwal IDP Settlement in Kabul on a snowfall day. It’s first winter snow in Kabul and thousands of IDP families are living in substandard makeshift making them disposed to freezing temperature. Photo: Enayatullah Azad / NRC

Although the children in Kabul’s settlements have many concerns, they are like most children. Despite the fact that cold and snow creates further suffering and distress, they find joy in everyday life. Outside a kiosk, we meet two boys who have made a snowman. For a moment, having fun in the snow is all that matters.

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