In the eyes of Afghanistan's children - there is the tragedy of a nation

There has been a huge rise in malnourished, premature babies, doctors told ITV News. Credit: ITV News

News Editor Lutfi Abu-Aun was in Kabul when the city fell to the Taliban in August.

He witnessed the fear and the tragedy then and has returned to the country where the youngest and most vulnerable are struggling for survival.  

A warning this article contains descriptions and images readers may find distressing.

In the eyes of children, there is the tragedy of a nation. Children like Nazia.

She is only seven, yet her dark, fearful eyes are a metaphor for the country she will try to grow up in. 

Already she has lost her home, her security. Already she knows what cold and hunger feel like.

Now she is one of the thousands of children living life in a camp for those whose homes were lost as the Taliban took control. She was born in a place where life was always struggle, but now the struggle is simply to survive. 

Nazia, 7, was displaced from Helmand province and now lives in a camp in Kabul.

I saw the same fear in the eyes of many. Children who are so young their eyes should neither see nor tell of the worst of this world, yet they are already haunted by its reality. 

Afghanistan's children are not dying in battle, they are dying in camps, homes and hospitals.

Tiny children who have played no part in their country’s past, who will be lucky to live long enough to play a part in its future. They know nothing of past battles yet they already fight their own, with poverty, hunger, cold and a lack of any real medical care. 

Akbar Bibi, 9, carrying food to her family on freezing cold morning in Kabul.

Their mothers can do little to save them from the dreadful reality of the world into which they are born. In the hospital, doctors told us of a huge rise in malnourished, premature babies. Their mothers are so weakened by hunger they cannot nourish nor take their babies to term. On the premature baby ward we saw three-day-old Saber. He had lived three days longer than his twin Omar who died immediately after birth. His mother, Rahima, could do little to protect her surviving child and nor could the doctors. When we called the following day, Rahima told us Saber had died. He is one of many and there will be many more. 

Saber died three days after he was born. His twin Omar died after birth.

Those who are older face similar hardship. It's -4C here now.

In one of Kabul's camps for the internally displaced, I saw dozens of children in the thinnest of clothes on the coldest of days.

Most carry bags of rubbish that they will sell for money or burn them to keep warm. A little boy called Qassem came to talk to us, rubbish bag in hand. I asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. His answer was immediate: “I just want piece of bread now”. 

Qassem, 7, was displaced from Helmand province and lives in a camp in Kabul. He collects rubbish for living.

And yet even in the darkest of times and places it is the children who bring the hope.

Filming in Kabul we saw seven-year-old Hamad, buying a red balloon from a 13-year-old called Mushtaba.

Watch John Ray's heartbreaking report from Afghanistan

This video contains distressing images

Mushtaba told me he is dreaming of being a doctor, even though he doubts he will ever get the chance. He won't give up on that dream. Hope still flickers despite it all.  

The history books will tell of Afghanistan's tragedy, these children will live it.  

Hamad, 7, buys a balloon from 13-year-old Mustafa.

Click here to donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Afghanistan Crisis Appeal, a charity made up of 15 UK aid charities that specialises in humanitarian aid and disaster response. Its current appeal aims to help the 8 million people in Afghanistan who are at risk of famine this winter.