By Gorata Fembo, IFRC

Khumari Aimaq, 18, is wistful when she remembers her early life in Charmgar village in Afghanistan’s Baghlan province.

“For years, my father was a successful business man. He was a farmer, and he ran a business that sold milk and milk products. Our family also owned a flour milling machine, which was a sustainable business, seeing us into school and a comfortable home full of love and protection,’’ said Khumari.

‘’My father later fell sick. He fell into a lake which left him unable to walk and in hospital for three months. It was then that our source of income stopped. No one in the family could continue the business like my father did. Crops could not grow due to the dry conditions.’’

“Later, the situation turned from bad to worse with the unending conflict and frequent shootings in our village. The last straw for our family came after losing my youngest sister who was just 45 days old.”

Khumari’s eyes filled with sadness.

‘’We then had to flee Charmgar leaving everything behind. We were distraught and my mother was devastated after losing her new baby. ‘’

In the capital, the Aimaq family survives on a salary of less than 40 US dollars per month.

‘’Since moving to Kabul, my brother, who is nine, is our sole provider. He provides for 12 people – me and my seven siblings, my mother, father, grandmother and our aunt. He provides for our father and a sister who is an amputee and often needs support to get around.

‘’Ahmad works in a bicycle repair shop where he often makes enough to provide a good nutritious meal for the family. On average we eat one meal and the next day we go a full day without a meal knowing we are saving for another day. So, we basically skip a day’s meal. This is how we survive. We also survive through handouts from the Red Crescent.

‘’Since moving at the beginning of the year, we have received three rations of food from the Red Crescent – cooking oil, rice, flour, beans, tea, sugar and salt – which relieved off a lot of pressure on my little brother bringing money for food.

“My youngest sister is one and a half years old. She survives on breast milk. If it wasn’t for that, I often wonder if she could go hungry some days and die.’’

Khumari is keen to see things change in her family.

“My biggest dream is to become a teacher, so many girls can have the opportunity to study like boys do. There are girls like me who would miss out on education because there are fewer women teachers in their villages, or none. I would like to break the norm and become a success in my family. And I’d like to help my little brother who is working very hard to provide for us.”

Like other people, Khumari hopes her family will be able to return to their village, where most of their extended family live.