Bringing an End to Freezing Nights

Ghulam Sakhi, 94, made his way to the IOM distribution site on his cane to get the aid he needed to survive the winter.

When his frail body almost collapsed under the weight of the box, a younger man quickly stepped in and helped him carry it the hundred meters to his makeshift hut, made from mud and other materials donated by neighbours.

Sakhi and the other families living on the same vacant lot in Kabul, Afghanistan, lost their homes and all their possessions following their deportation from Iran in 2007.

The old man left the Afghan capital 30 years ago amid fierce fighting. After being beaten up, receiving a head injury and seeing his brother murdered by gunmen, he and his wife decided to flee to Pakistan with their children and what they could carry.

After 12 years in Pakistan they moved to Iran, where Sakhi, a father of nine sons and five daughters, eked out a living scavenging for metal items from the garbage. He made just enough to support his family.

One autumn day in 2007, the police loaded Sakhi, his wife and his grandson, who were all scavenging, onto a vehicle and dropped them near the Afghan – Iranian border. They had no money or possessions with them.

The Afghan government provided transport to adjacent Nimroz province and a truck driver eventually gave them a ride "home" to Kabul. But after a 30-year absence, they knew nobody they could turn to for help.

"I have pain in my feet and my back. My eyes can't see properly, so I can't work any more. I used to have livestock, but they are all gone. I have nothing left here and I don't know how I am going to live," said Sakhi, holding back his tears.

"It's really cold here, but I didn't even have a blanket to wrap myself in and I have been shaking every night. My wife is also coughing and suffering from high fever. Thank you so much for this," he added. 

IOM and its partners started distributing winter kits in January 2008. The operation, funded by USAID, has thus far distributed 730 kits containing two blankets, three sweaters and three shawls each in the Western and Central regions of Afghanistan, to help vulnerable displaced people during one of the harshest winters on record. It will soon begin distribution in other regions which have been hit equally hard by the freezing weather.