“We had no time to gather anything. We fled with only a blanket,” she said to a reporter working with the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency while recalling the episode.
Although the war is one of the main issues in the Middle Eastern country, as an Afghani citizen, her troubles began a decade ago. The then 13-year-old girl was forced to marry a man she never saw in her life and was forced to move to an unfamiliar city after the marriage.
She raised four children in an area where battles between government and opposition forces were a chronic disease. Eventually, her husband would die in a crossfire, leaving her to take care of her children by herself.
Maryam and her four children roamed two other towns before ending up in camp for internally displaced people. Today, she is living in a tent made from cloth. She had a very different vision for her life: she once hoped to get an education and start working to sustain her family.
The mother of four is one of the 550,000 Afghans who have been displaced by the upsurge of military conflicts in the country. “More than 250,000 people were forced to flee their homes since the end of May, out of which 80 percent are women and children,” said UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo at a press briefing in Geneva.
To make things worse, the World Bank estimates 45% of the country’s population suffers from malnutrition, fueled mainly by poverty – “There have been nights when we had nothing at all to eat,” Maryam says. Climate change is also taking its toll, with a heavy drought affecting up to 80% of the country. Several mothers from the camp report their children have fallen sick from drinking salty water at a nearby well.
The recent occupation by Taliban forces shed light on a conflict that Western media kept dormant in the last decade. We all saw the images of people trying to flee the country. The rush to the airports, women who gave their babies to the military forces, and people climbing an airplane wing only to fall moments after lift-off.
We tend to see and think about problems such as the ones reported in Afghanistan when they reach their peak, when videos show the tragedy of people killed by insurgents, the hopelessness of mothers handing over their babies, and the irrational decision to climb over an airplane wing with hopes of fleeing the war.