Hundreds of displaced Afghan families seeking food and shelter

UN says more than 18 million people require aid and half of all children under five suffer acute malnutrition in Afghanistan.

An Afghan girl holds an umbrella as she sits on a grave at a cemetery in Kabul [File: Reuters]

Hundreds of Afghan families who have been camping in searing heat at a Kabul park after the Taliban overran their provinces are begging for food and shelter, as a humanitarian crisis unfolds in the war-torn country.

The Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan this month, culminating in the capture of Kabul on August 15, has thrown the country into turmoil.

While thousands of people have crowded the airport to try to flee, many others, like the families in the park, are stuck in limbo, unsure whether it is safer to try to go home or stay where they are.

“I’m in a bad situation,” said Zahida Bibi, a housewife, sitting under the blazing sun with her large family. “My head hurts. I feel very bad, there is nothing in my stomach.”

Ahmed Waseem, displaced from northern Afghanistan, said those in the park were hoping the central government would pay attention. “We are in an open field and in the heat,” he said.

A Taliban spokesman told Reuters news agency the group was not providing food to the people at the park and others at the airport because it would lead to further overcrowding. They should return to their homes, he said.

Afghanistan’s Western-backed president and many other officials fled after government forces melted away in the face of the Taliban advance.

The group has placed its members in ministries and ordered some officials back to work, but services are yet to resume, with banks still closed.

Phalwan Sameer, also from northern Afghanistan, said his family came to Kabul after the situation rapidly deteriorated in his home town.

“There (was) a lot of fighting and bombing as well. That’s why we came here. The houses were burned and we became homeless,” he said.

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday it has only enough medical supplies in Afghanistan to last a week after deliveries were blocked by restrictions at Kabul airport and the UN World Food Programme said the country urgently needed $200m in food aid.

The United Nations says more than 18 million people – about half of Afghanistan’s population – require aid and half of all Afghan children under the age of five already suffer from acute malnutrition amid a second drought in four years.

The Taliban has assured the UN that it can pursue humanitarian work as foreign governments weigh the issue of whether and how to support the population under Taliban rule.

Source: Reuters