Hundreds of displaced families seek food and shelter in Kabul

In this photo taken on Aug 14, 2021, internally displaced families take shelter in a public park in Kabul. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KABUL (REUTERS) - Hundreds of Afghan families who have been camping in searing heat at a Kabul park after the Taleban overran their provinces begged for food and shelter on Thursday (Aug 26), the most visible face of a humanitarian crisis unfolding in the war-torn country.

The Taleban's swift takeover of Afghanistan this month, culminating in the capture of Kabul on Aug 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 Ms 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."

Mr 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 Taleban spokesman told Reuters 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 Taleban 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.

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

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"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 Organisation 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 US$200 million (S$ 270 million) in food aid .

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

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

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