Afghanistan: Life Goes On
As I fly from Kabul to southern Afghanistan, I can’t help but feel a certain change take place.
The noise and smog of city life begin to visibly quiet. The land, covered by mountains in most areas of central and northern Afghanistan, slowly flattens to arid, dusty plains. Just a scattering of hills dot the landscape. The multi-storey buildings of the city turn to mud-brick houses. Wide and snake-like riverbeds lay dry as they cross the landscape and farmland is scattered about near villages. I wonder about how people survive on what looks like endless, barren, sand-coloured land stretching to the horizon.
After the plane touches down, a rosebush garden greets us at the airport, and contradicts the stereotypical picture of southern Afghanistan—the oft-cited centre of conflict in the country. As I wait in the sunshine to pick up my bag, I listen as the language switches from Dari to Pashto and men greet each other with warmth.
The culture, more conservative here in the south, means we throw burkhas over our heads as we head to the office. Through a mesh of green, I watch as people go about their business in town. A car dealership. A motorcycle repair shop. Bicycle stores. The absolutely essential bread shops of Afghanistan displaying rows of freshly cooked naan.
Men wrapped in various shades of brown and tan patus, a sort of shawl/blanket, ride through town on motorcycles and bicycles. Although sunny, the winter air still holds a chill. The rest of the road is filled with its mix of cars, small trucks, and local trolleys, while the land outside town extends into the desert.
On days like this, it’s sometimes hard to imagine that the country is at war. But even on this calm sunny day, checkpoints along the road and cautious discussions of recent incidents are a reminder of the insecurity and daily risks. A reminder of the conflict that has lasted for nearly four decades.
I think of the impact of the last 40 years on the people of Afghanistan. Of the many acute emergencies, both minor and major, that have spanned those years. The communities that have had to adapt, to learn how to cope. Life here goes on, but the effects of conflict have slowly and relentlessly taken their toll on the availability of services, and on the people who need access to them. Meanwhile, the world speeds into the future, leaving them behind. As my eyes pan beneath the green mesh, I wonder if the people here feel left behind. I wonder if they still feel hope.
Kandahar province has one of the highest Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates in Afghanistan. To respond to this life-threatening crisis, Medair began providing community-based nutritional services in 2014 at eight mobile nutrition sites near urban areas. We nurtured strong community relations and soon extended our services to 27 rural nutrition sites—reaching families who could not safely or easily travel to clinics.
Our nutrition extension workers go from home to home screening children for malnutrition, then we treat children under five who are found to have acute malnutrition, while also training mothers on basic hygiene and nutrition. Our teams cannot put a stop to all the challenges faced in southern Afghanistan, but as we carry out our life-saving work, we hope it is a reminder to the people of Afghanistan that they are not forgotten.
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Medair’s work in Afghanistan is made possible with support from Global Affairs Canada, Common Humanitarian Fund, Canton of Zurich (CH), Gebauer Foundation (CH), and generous private donors.
This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.