KUNDUZ -- More than 20,000 families from Jawzjan, Faryab, Sar-e-Pul, Samangan, Baghlan, and Kunduz provinces -- who were forced to leave their homes in the past two years by conflict -- are facing numerous challenges after settling in the Balkh region, authorities say.
"Families that have settled in different parts of Balkh Province were forced by war and insecurity to leave their houses," said Sayed Masoud Qaderi, director of the Balkh Refugees and Repatriations Department.
"The majority of these families live in tents, camps and rented houses or with their relatives. But the cold weather of winter threatens their children and elders," said Qaderi.
"Our committees have surveyed all displaced families, and they will receive our regular assistance," he said.
Although the number of internally displaced families is increasing in Balkh Province, support to such families from aid agencies is decreasing, noted Qaderi. He urged the central government and aid agencies to pay particular attention in this regard.
His department is working in co-ordination with aid agencies to help improve the situation of those displaced, said Qaderi.
"With the support of government and aid agencies, we were able to provide assistance to 8,000 families," said Qaderi. "This support included food and non-food items as well as cash assistance that was given to eligible families."
"Germany, as one of the donor countries to Afghanistan, provided significant amount of assistance to the displaced families in Balkh this solar year. This has helped mitigate the difficulties of the internally displaced persons [IDPs]," he said.
He asked all aid agencies to focus on improving the situation of IDPs.
"The main problem these families are faced with right now is the lack of food and shelter," said Mohammad Afzal Hadid, chairman of the Balkh provincial council. "We have assessed their situation and have shared our findings with the government to provide support to [the families]".
While some of the internally displaced families have received food items and other support from the provincial Department of Refugees and Repatriations as well as from some aid agencies, they need further assistance, he said.
Khudai Birdi, a 52-year-old who moved from Khwaja Sabz Posh District of Faryab Province with his own family and 250 other families, settled in the Sakhi camp in the northern part of Mazar-e-Sharif.
"Although we are safe from war here, living in tents in the cold winter without any facilities is causing us great challenges," Birdi said.
"Our only request from the government is to bring security so that we can go back home," he said. "The residents are very scared and do not want to return to Faryab."
Ghulam Sakhi Tahiri, who had to leave his house in Mirza Olang village of Darzab District in Sar-e-Pul, is now settled in the Farabi township in Mazar-e-Sharif along with his family of eight.
"I had to move from Mirza Olang to Mazar-e-Sharif more than a year ago, and we're living a very difficult life right now," said Tahiri.
"I go to the city centre every day in search of daily work to earn food for my children, but I can rarely find work," he said.
"Two of my children suffer from pneumonia, but I cannot afford to take them to a doctor," he added. "There are so many other families in a similar situation whose children and elders are ill, but they cannot afford medical care."