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Wednesday, 7 November, 2001, 17:48 GMT
Refugees brave another cold night
A refugee girl in northern Afghanistan
The nights are getting colder in northern Afghanistan
Andrew Harding

It's five in the afternoon.

Almost dark already.

A light drizzle falls on the muddy ground, and on the sagging, soaking tents of the Gadia refugee camp in north-eastern Afghanistan.

Ten-year-old Nazimghal is sitting on a blanket inside her family's tiny shelter.

The walls are made of mud.

The roof is a scavenged plastic sheet.

A refugee girl waits for food
A refugee prepares food for her child
The door - bright yellow plastic - is made of half a dozen empty American food aid packages carefully stitched together.

Nazimghal is bored and fed up with the rain.

She has no shoes, and has been kept inside all day by her mother.

In half an hour she and her nine brothers and sisters will go to bed - squeezed together, head to toe on a thin blanket.

No dinner tonight.

Aid packets

Lunch came from one of those yellow aid packets - bought in the market - a mush of soya and processed vegetables.

Outside, the puddles are turning into ponds.

A woman cooks food from a US food drop
The refugees survive on US food drops
The narrow path from the nearby town of Khodja Bahuwadin, sprawling on the plains above the camp, has turned into a quagmire.

Half a dozen children are taking it in turns to collect water from the well.

Nearby, an old man delicately washes his feet at the door of his tent - pouring water from a battered tea-pot.

Some of the tents are proper, canvas constructions, with pegs and poles.

Most are threadbare blankets, draped over sticks, with straw on the floor.

Seventeen-year-old Afizullah is busy slapping mud onto the roof of his family's hut.

He is in charge of keeping the rain out - a full-time job today.

Moving lines

He has been here for 14 months now - ever since the frontline moved suddenly, then stopped in the middle of his village some 20 kilometres (12 miles) down the road.

Afghan woman beg for money near the camp
Afghan woman beg for money near the camp
Afizullah is cold and bored and misses school: "They don't have one for refugee children," he says.

By six o'clock it's pitch dark.

Fires flicker inside a handful of tents.

A woman stretches out a bare foot - warming it over the flames.

It is going to be another cold night - and winter has barely begun here.

See also:

01 Oct 01 | South Asia
How Afghans became aid dependent
05 Nov 01 | South Asia
Picture gallery: Afghan refugees
05 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Rebel MP visits refugee camps
03 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan refugee women at risk
31 Oct 01 | South Asia
Pakistan sends back most needy Afghans
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