IN PICTURES from Afghanistan: “The elders didn’t eat so that the small ones could have enough food.”Published: Nov 24, 2021 Reading time: 6 minutes
Conflict, drought, economic disruption, and the COVID-19 pandemic have conspired to deprive people in Afghanistan of their livelihoods. More than half of the population – nearly 23 million people – is currently at risk of going hungry, a trend that will only worsen as winter approaches. People in Need is on the ground to help. So far, we have provided 2,280 families (15,960 people) with cash aid, and as many as 21,000 people are expected to be supported by the end of the year.
Here are some stories of people our colleagues are meeting every day.
Photos and videos: Michal Przedlacki for PIN
Fatima* is sitting on the ground with one of her two daughters waiting for the distribution of cash aid by People in Need (PIN) in Kabul. "Me and my two daughters are sick and I am not able to provide medicine for them,” she says. “We don’t have a home and we live in rented houses. I owe the rent for the last four months. I don’t have anyone to support me."
Fatima’s husband was addicted and left the family two years ago. Since then they do not have any news about his whereabouts. "Sometimes, I go to houses and work for 50 or 100 Afghani ($0.50-- $1 USD) daily (doing the chores), but that’s not constant," she says. Fatima is very grateful for the help offered by PIN. "There have been days that we didn’t have food to eat, maybe three or four days in a row. We had to feed our children with stale leftover bread. We were not even able to feed them with milk or normal bread. We have undergone very harsh situations," says Fatima.
Khadija* is sitting next to Zahra waiting for the aid from PIN. Her husband also left the family nine months ago, and today, one of her sons is addicted and left home. Her three other boys are married and are not living with Khadija any more. "I am partially disabled and have three grandchildren who also live with disabilities. My son is a daily wage worker and works to support us," Khadija describes the current situation. "I work in residential apartments, wash carpets or rugs and earn 150 Afghani ($1.50 USD) for one day at work," she adds.
The money she earns she usually spends on rice and hard bread for children. "When we go to the market, we buy leftover hard bread for 4 or 3 Afghani. We buy the leftover rice from hospitals or hotels for 50, 40 or 30 Afghani on the square," says Khadija. "We need flour and cooking oil. One bag of flour costs 2,300 Afghani ($23 USD) now and we cannot afford it," she adds.
In these desperate situations, housing is the biggest challenge. "We don’t have a house so we move around,” says Khadija. “Our house owner came yesterday and threw away my daughter's kitchen utensils, which made her cry. He said that we either have to pay higher rent – 4000 Afghani – or leave. We told him to let us live under a tent in his house for 1,000 Aghani monthly. He didn’t accept it and told us to move out of his house. Where can we go? We don’t have any place to go," she says.
Zahra* was displaced in Afghanistan and now lives in a rented house in Kabul, together with her six children. "My husband does not work and he is addicted. He has sold his wheelbarrow and sometimes he sells our home kitchen utensils," says Zahra. "Right now we do not have anything. We do not even have wood for staying warm in winter," she adds. According to Zahra, the security situation has improved somewhat but there are no jobs available. "The Afghan peoples’ economic situation is very bad. We don’t have enough food to eat. A harsh winter is on the way and we don’t have heating materials or other needed things," says Zahra.
The PIN team in Afghanistan identified Zahra to receive cash aid. "We will buy wood for burning. Home rent is apparently impossible to be covered with this money, but if we will spare some money for heating, we will use it for rent as well," she said after the distribution.
Rani came to Kabul from Paktia province with her mother and uncle. “My father and brother were killed in the war by the Taliban,” says Rani. She was not able to bring anything with her when she fled. “At first, we felt lonely. Now we are used to it. In the beginning no one helped us and my uncle provided food and shelter for us. She describes the beginnings of displacement and adds that now they need clothes, food, and shelter the most.
Community leaders later recommend that Rani visit the Kabul Department of Refugees and Repatriations. Thanks to this she realized that PIN is providing cash aid to the most vulnerable people. “Food and winterisation are what is most needed. We will spend the rest of the money treating my mother, who has gastritis and kidney problems,” shares Rani. Unfortunately, while the money is welcome, it is still not enough to solve their problems, Rani says. “Our biggest wish is to see peace in our homeland and to be able to meet our needs,” she concludes.
Hedayatullah (35) fled Baghlan province to Kabul due to the war three months ago. “We were able to bring just our clothes and a rug. At first we were scared because we had no work and our lives had changed.” He fled with nine family members. When they arrived in Kabul, the community leader helped them with 10,000 Afghani. But their needs remain high, especially now before the winter. “We need clothes, food, shelter,” says Hedayatullah, who has tried to find work with his push-car.
With the money received from PIN, Hedayatullah paid the rent for a car and the rest he spent on the rent of a house and purchased some food. “Basic food like oil and flour are expensive. Life has become hard. And we are not prepared for winter,” says Hedayatullah, who adds that he needs even more money to cure his son who has orthopedic problems. “There are many wishes but the biggest one is to see my son running,” he concludes.
Those supported by PIN are mostly displaced from other provinces, or are from households who don’t have a breadwinner. "We mostly enlisted those who have many household members, live in rented houses, have no more savings left and have many other problems," says Sardar Wali from PIN’s team in Kabul. He says that when the PINteam surveyed about 400 families, only two of them had a bag of flour in their houses. "We have witnessed families where the elders didn’t eat food so that the small ones could have enough food," says Sardar Wali.
PIN’s team in Afghanistan is currently providing people in Kabul and Mazar-e Sharif with humanitarian cash aid to support their immediate food needs and prevent them from hunger, repair their damaged shelters, prepare them for the upcoming harsh winter and support their return home. This would be never possible without the generous support of people who contributed to PIN’s Afghanistan Emergency Appeal and funds from the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alliance2015 and Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund, which is managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
* Names changed for security reasons