An alley between mud-brick buildings in Afghanistan.

Standing with Anguished Women ‘Seeking a Better Life’ in Afghanistan

[In December of 2021, our team in Afghanistan delivered emergency food aid to families suffering from acute hunger. For most families, accessing food has become a lot more difficult since the Taliban gained control of the country, and many find themselves in impossible situations. One of the stories told to our team was so painful, we decided to share three raw conversations, as they happened. Both for safety reasons, and to preserve the dignity of the women interviewed, we are not sharing their names or photos.]

A.B., 45 years old.

Interviewer: What’s your job?

A: Whenever there is any bread to bake [for a neighbor], I bake at my own oven. But if there isn’t, I don’t have work.

My husband is jobless, and he suffers from mental illness. He is extremely unemployed nowadays. He sometimes goes out and works as a vehicle cleaner. The money he earns isn’t enough to meet our needs. Whenever there’s no work, he stays home.

It’s very hard for me to look after my family. Sometimes I can’t afford it.

I: How many children do you have?

A: I have three children. My brother-in-law`s family is also suffering from hunger. He is a drug addict and he can’t look after his family. His family is also suffering from famine and starvation.

I: What was your situation before the Taliban took power in Afghanistan?

A: During the previous government, we also had a bad economic situation. Before the Taliban takeover, my husband had opened a shop with loans but made a loss.

I: What is your biggest challenge at this moment?

A: Winter weather in Afghanistan has made it more difficult for poor people like us to find food and basic necessities. We don`t even have wood to keep ourselves warm in cold weather.

We do not have food to eat. Each night my children go to bed hungry because there is no money to buy food.

My husband tells me “bring me some drugs to keep me calm,” but I do not have even 20 Afghani [20¢ USD] to buy his drug.

(She cries.)

I: How much money do you earn for baking bread?

A: I bake bread for 5 Afghani [5¢ USD] but it’s not enough to buy food and wood. My younger child is also sick, and I have no money for treatment of his illness.

I: Besides this, do you have other income?

A: I don’t have anything else.

A.Q., 51 years old.

Interviewer: What challenges are you facing?

A: Before the Taliban seized Afghanistan, we had no problem. My 18-year-old son had been working in a cotton processing factory. But after the Taliban takeover, he lost his job and remained unemployed.

We live in a rental apartment. After my son lost his job, we were unable to pay the rent on the apartment. The owner of the apartment came and imprisoned my son for not paying the monthly rent. Including my relatives, no one has helped us at this critical time.

Then it was inevitable. I [thought I would have] to sell my grandchild for 50,000 Afghanis [$475 USD] to save my younger son from prison. She is a baby, but I had to save my younger son—to look after our family in this critical situation. At least he can provide us with bread to feed our family and save us from starving. The baby was facing death because her mother didn’t have milk to feed her baby.

This is my story. I [thought I would have] to sell my grandchild to save my son, as well as my family from poverty. Many thanks to this organization for providing us with food and essential necessities.

I: What was your situation before the Taliban?

A: Before the Taliban took control, we had a better life and we had jobs. Everyone had jobs. The baby’s father is missing, and we searched everywhere for him but couldn’t find him.

I: What is your biggest challenge now?

A: Our biggest challenge is jobs. Our daily life has deteriorated, and we have no food and other necessities.

I: Do you need shelter, food, or money?

A: We were displaced here, and we lost everything. We are unable to pay the rent of the apartment, we live in.

I: As a caretaker, how many people are you looking after?

A: We are four people. My younger son, my older daughter, my grandchild, and I.

I: What are your plans and dreams for the future? Are you going to look for a job?

A: I seek a better life for my children and grandchild. I will be happy if my son hunts for any job and provides us with some food.

I: As a grandmother,  what do you wish for your grandchild?

A: I wish her to study at school and become well-educated.

B.K., 76 years old.

B: We are 8 people in our family. My older son left us, and now he is living with his wife.

Interviewer: What is your most urgent problem?

B: I need financial help. We are poor, and unable to feed our children.

I: What kind of assistance are you looking for?

B: Lack of insulated shelters, warm clothes, not enough fuel for heating, and not enough food and medicine are our urgent needs.

I: What is your biggest challenge in this cold winter?

B: We don’t have firewood. Our rooms are so cold, and my children need warm winter clothing.

I: Is there anyone from your family who works and has any income?

B: No, none of our family works. Until now, no aid organizations have helped us. This is the first time that your organization assists with food aid.

The severity of the situation in Afghanistan is real. The suffering is real. The chance to relieve that suffering, even for a month, is real too. Together, as a community of peacemakers who believe in a love big enough to unmake violence, we made this distribution possible.