Poor scramble to survive Kabul winter
Reuters, January 12, 1999
By Sayed Salahuddin

The ground in one of Kabul's wood markets is picked clean, every scrap gathered by dozens of hands scrambling to find fuel to heat their homes as the Afghan winter bites.

More than two dozen children and women converge every day, competing to snatch the chips as they fly under each swing of the wood cutter's axe.

Six-year-old Hafiz battles for wood while his mother begs for food and money to feed her family of five in their chilly refuge in a public building.

His father was killed and brother crippled during the four years that different factions fought for control of Kabul and its one million residents.

Hafiz's day-long search for wood chips and waste paper usually yields enough to keep the family's home warm for about an hour.

"It's better than nothing. At least we can boil tea with it and warm up the room for a while,'' he said.

The plight of Hafiz and many others like him has been compounded by politics and economics.

Aid groups were expelled in mid-July after they refused to obey an order from the ruling Taliban to relocate to a controlled compound.

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