You don’t have to knock before entering Shkiba’s flat in the southern section of Kabul. Just walk up three flights of poorly aligned stairs in a vacated school building, and avoid the rubble and large holes caused by rocket explosions. Shkiba lives in what was once a classroom; the space is large, but the windows are without glass. Visitors are told not to stand too close to a crater hole covered with flimsy metal sheeting.Afghanistan’s 1990s civil war took a severe toll on this building, as did subsequent neglect. But now, a year after the fall of the Taliban, this is home for more than 50 families, many headed by widows like Shkiba who have come to Kabul because the Taliban destroyed their villages in northernAfghanistan.
Chris Herlinger, former senior writer for Church World Service, is a contributing writer for National Catholic Reporter’s Global Sisters Report. He is the coauthor, with Paul Jeffrey, of books on Haiti and Darfur, published by Seabury. A third book, Food Fight: Struggling for Justice in a Hungry World, has just been released.