Bibi Gul never planned to leave her home but, when conflict erupted outside five years ago, she and her husband took their children and fled.

Now, living in Ferozkoh in Ghor province, Bibi Gul finds herself alone trying to support her family during a pandemic. “My husband became addicted to drugs and for months he could not work. Eventually he left and we haven’t heard anything from him since. We don’t know where he is, or even if he is alive,” she said.

Bibi Gul managed to find work washing other peoples’ clothes and cleaning their houses, “I am a woman alone,” she said, “everything we have comes from what I can earn from day to day. My monthly income is around 1,000-1,500 Afghanis and this is not enough to provide the essentials we need to live.”

I am a woman alone. Everything we have comes from what I can earn from day to day.

In 2021, displacement due to ongoing conflict and natural disasters is continuing to drive humanitarian needs in Afghanistan. As of February, some 15,000 people like Bibi Gul had already fled their homes due to fighting. Many of these people remain displaced across the country, as conflict and poverty prevent them from returning to their areas of origin.

Living in a new place with no support system, displaced families have been left extremely vulnerable to both the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic, and the many challenges they already faced have been intensified. “For the last 5 months we have been living in this make-shift shelter but I don’t know how much longer the owner of this land will allow us to stay here,” she said.

Situated in the highlands of Afghanistan, Ghor experiences extreme weather, with winter bringing heavy snow and biting winds - one of the harshest winter seasons in the country. With a second wave of the pandemic gripping the country and no social safety net, it is families like Bibi Gul’s that are at most risk.

“My oldest daughter is 11 years old. She helps by collecting cartons and plastics from the streets for the heater. Nonetheless the long winter season in Ghor is too harsh and we have not been able to warm our room," she said.

"I was afraid that if I didn’t receive any help my children would die or at least become very sick during this winter. I worried we would not make it through."

“Fortunately, the Afghanaid team offered me some support. I received a total of 20,050 Afghanis from Afghanaid in two instalments. In the first instalment I received 1,550 to purchase a wood stove, and in the second instalment I received 18,500 with which I bought wood to fuel our new heater.”

Through this support, people like Bibi Gul can keep their families safe and warm so they can get through the colder months and get back on their feet. This will also allow them to use their money to buy food to keep their families healthy, and build up their financial buffers so that they are more resilient against future shocks like the pandemic. “I am so grateful to Afghanaid for coming to help me when we were in such a critical situation. Now I am happy because my children will have a warm room and I can keep them safe from illness”.

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