STORY: Shamila doesn’t have a photo of her three-month-old son but she remembers what he looked like perfectly.
“His face was very bright and white, he had big eyes, a narrow nose, and black hair,” she says.
Her baby is one of the more than 170 people who have died due to Afghanistan’s coldest winter in 15 years.
Hospital wards in the country have been filling up with children suffering from pneumonia, as many families like Shamila’s face a choice between being able to afford heat or food.
Her husband lost his income a few months ago when health problems forced him to stop working as a laborer.
With no money for heating, little food besides bread and tea, and drafty windows in their mountainside home — several of their eight children quickly fell sick.
The baby already had a cough and congested lungs when a cold snap hit.
Shamila clutched him tight and covered herself with a quilt — but woke around midnight to find his face cold.
“I had a very bad feeling, but God enabled me to bear the pain. When I saw that my son had died, I thought for a moment that my heart might stop beating,” she says.
Afghanistan is experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis — fueled by the Taliban’s ban on female NGO workers — that has left agencies unable to provide proper aid.
The United Nations says Afghans are in need of urgent assistance during the cold, which has seen temperatures dip below 29 degrees Fahrenheit.