New toys, new friends and a new beginning – Afghanistan

Naghma finds pleasure and healing in a UNICEF child-friendly space after the June earthquake in Afghanistan

Veronique Houser

GAYAN, AFGHANISTAN – “I’m here!” Naghma called. “I’m afraid !”

Moments before, Naghma’s house had shaken violently as a powerful earthquake shook her small village. She was sleeping, but woke up crying and hugged her knees to her chest. She couldn’t see anything in the dark night.

“I started crying and felt frozen in place,” she recalls. “My siblings were in another room. Their ceiling collapsed and I didn’t know what was going on.

Naghma, 4, would learn that the 5.9 magnitude earthquake that shook the walls of his family had also devastated the community around him. In the early hours of June 22, a powerful earthquake shook three districts of Paktika and Khost provinces in the southeast, killing more than 1,000 people and injuring more than 3,600.

“I think I passed out when the roof collapsed,” Naghma said uncertainly. “And when I woke up, I could see my uncle. He called me several times: ‘Naghma, are you alive?’ »

There were tears in Naghma’s eyes as she called out to him from under the rubble, “I’m here!” And I’m scared !”

Naghma’s uncle pulled her out from under the bricks, mud and wooden beams. She cried, insisting that her mother and father had been right next to her. They searched for his parents and rescued his mother, injured but alive. His father was killed in the collapse.

“Every day I felt so sad. I was afraid that the earthquake would come back and take the rest of my family.

Naghma brightens a bit, remembering a detail from the past few weeks.

“After five days of sadness, I remember seeing people from UNICEF in my village. They were setting up tents and there were a lot of toys inside,” she said. “They had created something like a classroom for us and enrolled me there.”

Now every morning, Naghma wakes up early, throws a shiny scarf around her hair and runs to the new child-friendly space. Here she is surrounded by puzzles, games, coloring books and crayons, and dozens of other children to play with.

With financial support from the German Committee for UNICEF and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), UNICEF is supporting 12 child-friendly spaces in Paktika and Khost, like the one where Naghma enrolled . These spaces provide a safe, nurturing and healing environment for traumatized children, helping to restore a sense of normalcy to their disrupted lives.

“We learn to learn poetry, painting, the alphabet…” Naghma smiled, again emphasizing with a smile, “…and there are a lot of toys.”

Naghma’s family still feels the loss of her father, and Naghma felt quite depressed since the earthquake. But Naghma’s mother, Zarghona, noticed small glimmers of positivity in her daughter.

“She is much happier since UNICEF opened these spaces,” says Zarghona.

In child-friendly spaces, UNICEF is also placing social workers to provide crisis counseling and mental health support to Naghma and her new friends.

“I feel happy here and I feel better because I’m learning,” says Naghma.

“My friends here make me laugh, and we can play and read,” she said, emphasizing again, “Now I feel better.”

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