‘We will not eat tonight’: Hunger afflicts Afghans in historic valley | Gallery News
They have long survived from day to day, but since the Taliban conquered the Bamiyan Valley, rural Afghans living in its mountainside caves have been weakened by hunger and fear.
Known as one of the most beautiful regions in Afghanistan, the rugged central valley is home to several hundred families living in caves carved out of sandstone cliffs by Buddhist monks in the 5th century.
The community is among the poorest in the country and the Taliban takeover in August only exacerbated their difficulties, with the end of international aid, rising food prices and soaring unemployment. .
They live a few miles from where the valley’s famous giant and ancient Buddha statues once stood, before they were blown up by the group in their last power 20 years ago.
Fatima says her cave partially collapsed during heavy rains a year and a half ago, leaving the 55-year-old woman and three family members crammed into a tiny cave measuring just six square meters (65 square feet).
“We won’t eat tonight. And winter is almost here. We have nothing to warm us up, ”she said, her face partially covered in a black veil.
“We live in misery and misery. “
Day laborers and porters no longer bring home the little money they once made to calm rumbling stomachs.
Only the potato harvest continued – the only crop that can be grown in the area at an elevation of 2,500 meters (8,200 feet).
“I go to the Bamiyan bazaar every morning, but I come back with nothing,” says Mahram, a 42-year-old mason.
“When there was work, I earned 300 afghanis ($ 3.75) a day.”
Now the family survives by sending their children to help harvest the potatoes.
“Farmers give them it instead of wages,” says Mahram. “That’s all we have, with a little bread.”
“But in 10 days the harvest will be over, and we will be really hungry. People will die.
Like most of the region’s residents, the families are Hazaras, a predominantly Shia ethnic minority who have been marginalized and persecuted in Afghanistan for centuries.
The victory of the Taliban, made up of Sunni extremists who regard the community as heretics, has caused panic.
“It’s very scary,” says Amena, 40, a mother of five.
“But they haven’t come, and probably won’t get to where we are.”
Amena opens the curtain at the entrance to her cave to reveal a rock-cut platform topped with two cushions, a grated carpet, and a rickety wood stove that has covered the ceiling with a thick layer of soot.
Near the door is a bunch of potato branches, the family’s only fuel.
“Wood is too expensive,” she says.
There has never been electricity in the area and collecting water requires three long trips a day to the valley river.
Deputy local council chief Saifullah Aria, 25, said the situation was dire.
“The people here are poor. Very poor, ”he says.
“They usually earn between 100 and 200 afghanis (1.10-2: 10) a day, but for the past six weeks, with the Taliban, they haven’t done anything.”
He says most only eat one meal a day of potatoes and bread.
Aria adds that he has never seen an NGO reach the valley and that his appeals for help from the local authorities in Bamiyan have gone unanswered.
“With the cold coming soon, the weakest here are going to die, that’s for sure.”