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In harsh winter, Kabul’s tent dwellers struggle to survive

In harsh winter, Kabul’s tent dwellers struggle to survive

Jan 24, 2017 - 17:10

KABULinfo-icon (Pajhwok): War-displaced families, living in refugee camps in Kabul, are struggling to survive in makeshift shelters. With their humanitarian needs largely unmet, sub-zero temperatures and associated ailments have made life miserable for them.

The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR) says more than 7,000 families displaced by wars in the country were currently living in 42 areas of the capital. Proja-i-Taimani and Charah-i-Qambar areas are home to many of the IDPs living in tents.

The shelters are full of smokes of plastics and papers the families burn to keep themselves warm. Many children run around their tents barefoot. Their lips, hands and feet are cracked due to frosty conditions.

Faiz Mohammad, 70, a resident of the Musa Kala district of southern Helmand province, was displaced along with his family to the Charah-i-Qambar refugee camp four years ago.

His stingy room has a tattered carpet and the entrance is protected with a dirty piece of cloth. The roof of the room is covered with tarpaulin.

“We fled fighting and came to Kabul, where we feel secure but we have no firewood, food or money. Death is much better than the miserable life we are leading here,” remarked Mohammad -- frustration writ large on his visage.

He added that their problems multiplied with the advent of the winter and they were unable to purchase firewood. The camp dwellers burn plastic, rubber, old shoes and papers they collected from the city, he said.

Malik, a resident of the Kajaki district of Helmand, is another person living in the camp having 1,377 families. Most of them belong to Helmand province. Four children and two elderly people recently lost their lives in the camp due to severe cold.

Only two humanitarian organisations have distributed food items and fuel to the families this winter, but they were not enough as cold weather had caused them more problems, he argued.

He recalled President Ashraf Ghani had visited the camp during his election campaign and had promised to resolve their shelter problems. But the president had nothing so far, forgetting the plight of the camp inmates after the election, he alleged.

This elder man asked charities and government organs to help the affected families and prevent a possible humanitarian disaster.

The IDPs living in Proja-i-Taimani have similar complaints. Nawab Khan, hailing from Laghman province, was displaced to Kabul along with his family. He said said 140 households were living in the cramped camp.

He added: “The weather is extremely cold and we have no firewood to keep ourselves warm or food to eat. Our tent gets wet when it snows or rains.” Pointing to the smokes rising from the heaters of local residents, he said all people burnt plastics, rubbers and other materials.

As the Pajhwok reporter spoke to Khan, around 10 children gathered around him in anticipation of them. Pointing to the children, who coughed, Khan said many of them fell ill with the arrival of winter.

With their families unable to treat the children, mobile healthinfo-icon teams also visit the camp but they could not diagnose diseases. All patients are given the same medicines. Only one charity had distributed flour to camp dwellers this winter, Khan said.

Spin Gul, a resident of Sarobi district now residing in Proja-i-Taimani area, said war and insecurity had forced him to leave his home. Lack of shelter, food, firewood, clean drinking water and healthcare are his main problems.

There is only one water pump and a well in the area, but the water is not fit for drinking because it is very salty. He said they had to fetch water from a place 300 meters from the camp.

A large number of displaced households living in Kabul are in the midst of similar problems. They are unable to send their children to school. Instead, they have to work hard to earn some money for their families.

Mehr Khuda, head of IDP affairs and emergency situations at the ministry, told Pajhwok Afghan News a number of charity organisations in Kabul had distributed cash, food and fuel to the affected families.

He said that MoRR did not have statistics about those who had lost their lives to cold weather this winter. Some of camp residents made such inflated claims to attract aid, he believed.

Mehr confirmed livelihoods of IDPs were not good in all areas. “It is natural that living conditions of displaced families are not normal,” he remarked.

He said MoRR was trying to provide more aid to the affected people and find them permanent shelters. More than a million people have been displaced for various reasons from their areas across the country.


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