Parents mourn three-month-old baby victim of Afghanistan’s deadly winter

By Mohammad Yunus Yawar and Charlotte Greenfield

KABUL (Reuters) – Shamila does not have a picture of the baby who died in her arms in freezing temperatures at their home in Kabul this month, but she remembers his face perfectly.

“He had a bright white face, big eyes, a small nose and black hair,” she said.

Three-month-old Amrullah was one of at least 171 people who have died from cold weather in Afghanistan in recent weeks, when a bitter cold snap hit just as the country is in serious crisis humanitarian.

The United Nations said 28 million Afghans, many of them children, needed emergency aid during the coldest winter in 15 years, which saw temperatures drop to -34 degrees Celsius (-29.2 degrees Fahrenheit).

Many aid groups have partially suspended operations in recent weeks due to a Taliban administration ruling banning most female NGO workers from working, leaving agencies unable to run many programs in the conservative country. .

Amrullah’s father, Nek Mohammad, 40, lost his income a few months ago when health problems prevented him from working as a labourer.

With no money for heating, little food except bread and tea, and drafts in their mountainside home, many of their eight children soon fell ill.

They took baby Amrullah to the hospital about two weeks ago for a cough and congestion in the lungs.

Hospital wards in Afghanistan have been filled in recent months with children suffering from pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses, as many families face difficult choices between being able to heat their homes or buy food.

The night his parents brought Amrullah home, a severe cold snap hit him.

Shamila, 35, grabbed her baby and covered herself with a duvet. But around midnight, she woke up to find her face was cold.

“The night I lost my baby it was terribly cold, I was trying to…warm up my little boy, but I couldn’t,” she said.

With no money to accommodate funeral guests, they quietly buried their baby without telling the family.

A family friend has since given them a basic charcoal heating system to alleviate the deadly cold, but unable to buy much food other than bread, Shamila worries for several of her surviving children who have a strong cough.

“I always think of my little boy and my two other little children, they are also sick, I don’t want to lose them too,” she said. She called for more international aid for Afghanistan.

Without a camera phone, the family failed to take a photo of Amrullah. But his mother keeps the clothes she made for him before he was born wrapped in a small package.

On Tuesday, they visited the snow-covered cemetery and said prayers for their son.

“May God spare other mothers the pain of losing their children,” Shamila said, near the rock marking her grave. “It’s very difficult for humans to bear it.”

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield and Mohammad Yunus Yawar; Additional reporting by Syed Hassib; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *