Afghanistan

“I’m hungry”

Karima, 10, and her family fled the violence of war three months ago. Now, they are threatened by starvation and deadly cold. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) wants to step up its life-saving humanitarian aid in Afghanistan.

“I’m hungry. I didn’t have breakfast today. If we’re lucky, we may get some supper. It’s been a long time since we had a regular meal,” says Karima. She is one of more than half a million Afghans who have been displaced from their homes since the turn of the year.

Acts of war, prolonged drought, the coronavirus pandemic and the chaotic situation following the Taliban’s takeover have caused food prices to skyrocket. A third of the population doesn’t know if they will have enough food in the coming months.

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Three months ago, the family of ten had to leave everything they owned when they fled to the capital, Kabul, where they have settled on a tiny plot of land together with 41 other displaced families.

Read caption KABUL: 42 displaced families have settled on this plot of land in Kabul. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

Enormous distress

“Our house has been bombed and we have nothing to return to. We are homeless,” Karima says.

The 42 families have set up tarpaulins to try to protect themselves from the elements. They fetch water from a water station down the street. They get their drinking water and what little they have to eat from generous neighbours or from what they can earn as casual labourers. None of the children go to school.

The sanitary conditions are terrible. The 42 families, which include many small children, share two latrines. Many of the children are ill and need medical help, but the parents don’t have money for medicine or health care.

Read caption JAN EGELAND: NRC Secretary General, Jan Egeland, listens to women of families displaced by armed conflict in Helmand Province, who fled to the outskirts of Kabul. They are concerned that most organisations and institutions that provided basic services have not returned since the Taliban retook power in August 2021, and they cannot access basic health services or meet the essential needs of their families. Photo: Will Carter/ NRC

Sounding the alarm

“Afghanistan’s economy is spiralling out of control. The formal banking system could collapse any day now because of a lack of cash. I’ve spoken to families who tell me they are surviving on tea and small scraps of old bread,” says Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, who is currently visiting Afghanistan.

“We are in a race against the clock to save lives before the harsh winter arrives and temperatures drop to as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius. Hundreds of thousands of displaced people urgently need shelter, warm clothes and food in the coming weeks. Already, one in three Afghans do not know where their next meal will come from.”

Read caption URGENT NEED FOR HELP: NRC’s Astrid Sletten (centre) listens to the families’ stories and maps out the need for help. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

“The Afghan people need us”

Astrid Sletten, who leads NRC’s work in the country, is sounding the alarm: “If help fails to materialise, a great many people will freeze and starve to death,” she warns.

“The Afghan people need us more than ever. Many have sought refuge in the larger cities. Thousands now live in tents, under tarpaulins or simply in the open air in Kabul’s parks. I have met Karima and several of these families, and they will not survive long without help,” continues Sletten, who has worked in the country for many years.

Read caption THE CHILDREN ARE SUFFERING: Among the 42 families who have settled on a small plot in Kabul, there are many children. They share two latrines and many of the children are ill. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

“We want to increase emergency aid”

During the change of power in the country, NRC was forced to temporarily put parts of its humanitarian aid work on hold.

“We are now working intensively to resume and increase our relief efforts. It is especially important to take care of the children and get them back in school, but we are also preparing to help more families get a roof over their heads before winter comes, in addition to providing food aid,” says Sletten, who is worried about the winter.

NRC wants to step up its emergency aid efforts by providing life-saving assistance to 250,000 people.

“That corresponds to just under the population of Norway’s second largest city, Bergen. If we receive more money and our employees have the chance to do their job, we will manage to help those in need,” she assures.

WE WILL SAVE LIVES BY:

  • Providing warm clothing and blankets
  • Building temporary homes
  • Insulating temporary homes for the winter
  • Providing fuel and heaters
  • Providing money for food, or distributing food
  • Providing clean water
  • Building toilets
  • Providing soap and hygiene items

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NRC has been in Afghanistan since 2003. We have 1,600 Afghan employees and work in 14 provinces across the country. Last year we reached 762,076 people with life-saving assistance. Read more about our work in Afghanistan here.