AYBAK, Afghanistan — Hamida, an Afghan woman, lost a lot late last year when her village was caught in the crossfire between government forces and the Taliban in northern Afghanistan.
“As the rockets, artillery, and mortar shells fell, I lost my 2-year-old child and many relatives,” she recalls of the fighting in December that forced her to flee their village in rural Faryab Province, which borders Turkmenistan. “We fled in the clothes we were wearing.”
Like many Afghans, Hamida goes by one name only. She says they fled their village, dodging bullets by ducking into irrigation channels and canals. Like the tens of thousands of civilians displaced from Faryab’s once-peaceful Andkhoy and Qurghan districts, they first sought shelter in the provincial capital, Maymana.
They later moved to Aybak, some 400 kilometers away in Samangan Province. “We lost everything,” she said.
Like dozens of displaced families from Faryab, Hamida lives in a makeshift tent they hurriedly built by wrapping tarpaulin, carpets, cloth, and plastic sheets around wooden beams. In the absence of fire or heating, the tent provides little protection from the bitter cold outside.
Abdul Wadud, a displaced man from Faryab, recounts the difficulties they encountered after they were sandwiched between the Taliban and government forces.
“The Taliban were using our homes as their hideouts while government planes were bombing from above and security forces poured in artillery shells from all sides,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “This forced us to flee to Samangan with our families.”
Shukria, a housewife, says they have received little help from the authorities or aid agencies in Samangan.
“We are constantly asking the government to help us with food and warm clothes,” she said. “Our children are hungry and cold.”
Rahmatullah, another displaced man, says their petitions for help seem to be falling on deaf ears in Samangan.
“We have nothing to eat, and they are not even letting us see the governor, the police chief, or other senior officials, saying we should return to Faryab and get help there,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan.
Sayed Kamal Hussaini, a government official responsible for coordinating aid to Faryab’s displaced, says they have meager resources but are doing their best to help.
“Without waiting for funds, we helped some of the most vulnerable including the sick, with cash handouts,” he said.
But provincial authorities in Samangan have done little for the 700 families who fled fighting in rural areas in recent months.
Like their compatriots from Faryab, they have lost everything and are now largely fending for themselves.
Abubakar Siddique wrote this story based on Bashir Ahmad Ghazali’s reporting from Aybak, Afghanistan.