Mud houses cling to a hill overlooking Kabul. Photo by Anuj Chopra
Afghanistan Faced With Severe Housing Shortage
By Anuj Chopra
KABUL, Afghanistan -- It's a daily ritual for 8-year-old Bismillah. Every morning, five grimy plastic cans slung over his tiny shoulder, he descends a rugged hillside, negotiating the steep pitches of scree and gravel with goat-like agility. At the bottom of the hill, he waits under the broiling sun in a long queue leading up to a spigot. But wait he must or his family will be left without drinking water for the day. Bismillah lives with his handicapped father, mother and four sisters in a mud-and-wood house in a cramped settlement clinging to a shale-brown hill overlooking Kabul. With no direct water supply, dwellers of these rudimentary housing settlements -- all illegally built -- must lug their water from the bottom of the hill. "Life is hard," says, Suraiya begum, Bismillah's mother, her face hidden behind the lavender fabric of her burqa. "We wouldn't live here if we had a better choice." Six years after the invasion, ask ordinary Afghans the biggest challenge they face, and their answer isn't likely to be the Taliban. It is, in fact, to find a roof over their heads. ...