This morning we headed out to meet with villagers who were coming to the tent distribution in the afternoon. Some had told us that they would need support with transport. The tents are for made harsh climates and are durable, but also heavy at 80kg — too much for two people to take back. We had arranged for a truck to help.
We headed back in to start the distribution set up and were happy to see the men from the villages arrive and together load up the truck to head back home. The team were on hand to support if there are any complaints and to talk to people about how to put the tents up.
The tents we saw already up in the villages were put up beautifully. Some were put them up among the rubble of their old homes and some further away. A worry with the former is that the continuing aftershocks cause the remaining sections of wall to fall and injure people.
People come and go, collecting tents. This town is well known. It’s the nearest clinic to many of the villages. Even so, it has taken most families many hours to reach the area — more if they do not own, or don’t have access to a donkey. There are no cars that we have seen.
Yesterday we followed dry riverbeds in our truck, driving in the valleys to and from the villages. The team pointed out to me the road buried under a landslide to my left. I hadn’t noticed it before. On top of the rubble, I see people making their way on donkeys across the rocks. People here find a way.
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, over half the population of Afghanistan had access to healthcare. That number is now much lower.
But this is what we do. We have health and nutrition programmes working with communities in this area. Photographs of the nutrition team I saw up in our central office show children that arrived at the programmes looking dangerously thin and unable to eat — it’s a sign of serious malnutrition and very worrying. Next to these are more photos of the same children leaving weeks later. They look healthy and not recognisable from those pictures taken before.
In July 2004, Save the Children set up a midwife training college in Mazar-i-Sharif. Since then, some 77 women have graduated from the midwife training college. They have returned to their home villages or towns to work as midwives. They have helped deliver more than 50,000 babies and keep their mothers healthy.
At the distribution, people load up their truck to make their way home and put up their tents. They’re already planning where this will be done and what items will live inside the tents to be kept safe.
A day after distribution, an aftershock wakes me just before 5 am. I hope its not worse in the hills. Today I will head back to Mazar, although I wish I could return and talk more to these careful people about their life here. We leave the dirt roads for the smooth tarmac main road. The villages slowly peter out. Towns take their place, with busy markets and cars once again.
Tomorrow we’ll head back to Kabul. I’ll be sorry to leave this place of beauty and the amazing people. I do hope I’ll come back. After reading so many statistics and stories of the conflict in Afghanistan, I had one opinion.
I read Mohammad Qayoumi’s photo story Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan and hear older people talk about this time. It’s the past. But from what I’ve seen, and the people I talk to, I hope the near future too.
We’ve been helping children in Afghanistan – the second most dangerous place in the world for a child to grow up, or for a woman to give birth – since 1976
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