Afghanistan's orphans survived war,
still fighting for their lives
October 29, 1996
Web posted at: 6:00 p.m. EST (2300 GMT)
From Correspondent Anita Pratap
KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The war in Afghanistan has
wreaked havoc on the lives of millions of people. First, the
Soviet Union invaded the country in 1979, engaging the
mujahaddin groups in battle. Russia didn't leave until 1989;
once its military withdrew, civil war broke out.
The constant fighting has taken its toll throughout the
country, decimating what economy the country had. But few
have suffered as much as the orphans of this war.
Battles hound the 850 orphans even in a government-run home
in Kabul. Twice in the last four years the orphanage had to
move when the front lines of the civil war came to its front
On one occasion, gunmen looted the orphanage's meager
furniture, food stocks and blankets.
Peace came with the Taliban's capture of Kabul, but that
brought difficulties of another kind. The Taliban have
forbidden women from working, and most of the orphanage's 330
employees are women.
"It's become terribly difficult to run this orphanage without
women employees. We are also running out of money because
ever since the Taliban came, the banks have been closed,"
said the institution's administrator.
Unless they are replenished, the institution's food supply
will run out by mid-November. Already, the orphans must make
do without meat or vegetables.
Keeping the children clean and laundering their clothing is
also a problem because women employees cannot report for
work. The girls' school was closed after the Taliban banned
girls from attending; the boys' school was closed because 85
percent of the teachers are women.
So none of the children are getting an education, and there
is too much work for the few women who work secretly.
"The burden is terrible," said one woman. "There were 80 of
us to look after these small children. Now there are only
four of us."
Desperation drives the women to defy the Taliban. "My
condition is even more pitiable than these orphans," another
worker secretly said. "I am old and my husband has abandoned
me. I need my salary to survive."
Survival is the issue, as the orphanage's stock of fuel and
medicine is also dwindling. The orphans also want for basics
like warm clothing, shoes, and blankets, as Kabul's harsh
winter is setting in.
Some children will find even their rooms provide scant
protection from the cold. Previous shelling shattered the
windows, and without money the home's administrators can
purchase no glass to replace them.
The orphans have survived the war so far, escaping bullets
and bombs. It will be as much of a struggle for each child to
escape Kabul's sub-zero temperatures.
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