Freezing temperatures add to plight of millions across Afghanistan

People across Afghanistan have raised concerns about the rising cost of food and fuel to heat their homes amid a sharp drop in temperatures and heavy snowfall over the past few days.

Afghanistan’s Meteorological Department warned Monday that overnight temperatures would drop in places to about minus 30 degrees Celsius. Kabul was expected to drop to at least minus 13 on Monday night, while Feroz-Koh and Gardez cities will be minus 29 degrees Celsius and minus 24 respectively.

Concerned citizens have said they are dealing with high levels of unemployment and poverty and that they are tired of the deteriorating situation in the country.

Farima, a 47-year-old mother of five, who lives in Kabul, said she cannot afford to buy fuel to heat her home.

“I lost my husband, who was an employee of the Supreme Court, five years ago and after my husband’s death, I worked there on a short-term contract and provided for my children,” Farima said.

She said she has returned to her office on several occasions since the Taliban came into power in August 2021, “to beg the Taliban to allow me to return to work. But they told me that there is no place for women in the office and [told me] to go back home.”

Farima, who was the only breadwinner in her family said she can now no longer afford even to pay her rent.

She also raised concerns about an uncertain future for her children, among other challenges.

“My children and I have gone without food for two days. Several times I considered committing suicide because of poverty. I urge the Taliban to allow women and girls to return to school, university, and work,” she said.

Farima’s eldest son, Shirzad, is 12 years old and is in Grade 8 but has been forced to go out to work.

Shirzad said he only earns between 30 and 40 Afghanis a day (about 50 US cents), and said some days he doesn’t even earn that and has to return home empty-handed.

This comes amid a freezing winter, with temperatures having plummeted over the past week. In this time at least 31 people have died of hypothermia across the country and thousands of heads of livestock have been lost.