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Mohammad Khalid, 49, has been temporarily displaced to Kabul and is living in the city since a month with his wife, five children and his brother in a one-room mud house. Without a source of income even, the family is living in deplorable conditions. Khalid pays a monthly rent of AFN 6,000 for his current residence and cannot move freely in the city due to the threats to him and his family.

Khalid and his family lived in village named Saripul, located in Kunduz province. Before the conflict erupted and the family among many other was forced to run away to safer cities, Khalid was reasonably well off  financially and lived happy and content life with his father, brother and his wife and children. He served as the head of the Village Development Council (CDC) in Saripul, however being associated with the government for work on village development programs proved to be dangerous for him as well. It led him to be on the hit list of the anti-state militants active in the area.

Since April 24th 2015, the ongoing conflict between the Afghanistan National Security Force (ANSF) and Armed Opposition Groups (AOGs) intensified in the North, Northeast and East of Afghanistan- especially in Kunduz, Takhar, Kunar and Saripul provinces. The conflict resulted in  thousands of families being displaced from Kunduz, Takhar and Nangarhar provinces. Mohammad Khalid and his family were among the many displaced from Kunduz to Kabul.

Explaining the reason and circumstances that led to their displacement, Khalid said that when the conflict broke out in Kunduz, the anti-state groups started targeting the people who were in favor of the government and their development programs in  the area. The militants killed his father as they raided his house in search of  Mohammad Khalid, but found only his father at home.  Khalid’s brother was also injured in the struggle at their house. After this incident,  Khalid decided to move his family to a safer city immediately, subsequently moved to Kabul as that seemed to be a comparatively secure place. He rented a taxi costing him AFN 25,000, which in normal circumstances would cost no more than AFN 3,000. He took a long route to travel to Kabul passing  through a rough and hilly terrain as the main routes were cordoned off by the militants and coming across them would have meant a certain death for Khalid and his  family.

“I do not know what is left of our house and our belongings since we left everything behind without having any time to think or to collect anything. The situation is so terrifying that at this point i cannot even think of going back.”

There has been news that the security  situation in the area is improving and things are getting back to normal. Khalid is contemplating to move back since living in KAbul is unaffordable for him, but he will move to some other town in Kunduz and not his hometown since that would be too big a risk to take.

Khalid and his family have survived with the money that they had for the last fifteen days but now they are running out of money , thus are totally dependent on  the humanitarian response that they are receiving from the government and other humanitarian organizations.

Community World Service Asia has distributed two month food packages to 370 conflict affected families in Kunduz. Mohammad Khalid was also among the beneficiaries. “At the moment we are totally dependent on humanitarian assistance, and for people like me, who cannot freely move due to the security issues, it’s a great support which we can  never forget,” expressed Mohammad Khalid.

Note: Tragic events such as the death of Mohammad Khalid’s father and the injuries inflicted on his brother have terrified the family to an extent that the family did not allow the project staff to take their photos as they had feared that they would be tracked down by the militants if the photos were published.

Community World Service Asia has been working to promote quality and equality in education in Afghanistan since 2009, providing continuous professional development for teachers and access to education for girls. Strong relationships have been built with the schools and communities in Laghman and Nangarhar provinces, which have been extremely important in creating a supportive environment for education projects.  However, government authorities in Afghanistan are often skeptical of NGOs and INGOs, due in large part to the country’s experience of improperly and ineffectively implemented projects.  It is therefore difficult for organizations to obtain government approval for their work, and many projects face criticism and obstacles which impede progress.

Community World Service Asia endeavors to work alongside and in partnership with the local government, supporting its policies, strategies and priorities.  We ensure that we meet regularly with relevant government authorities to keep them informed about our work, and this has contributed to good relationships between us as an NGO, and the government in Afghanistan, which has been supportive and appreciative of our efforts and work.

Earlier this year, the head of NGOs Coordination at the Provincial Education Directorate in Nangarhar resigned. His replacement, Mr. Baheer, was reluctant to authorize a subject-based training workshop for Math teachers.  He was concerned that the workshop would be a waste of the teachers’ time, as he perceived such trainings to be conducted in order for organization’s to meet their targets, not to effectively build the capacity of teachers.

Community World Service Asia therefore invited an official from the Education Directorate’s Monitoring and Evaluation Department to attend the full five-day training, and invited Mr. Baheer as a chief guest on the final day. He was then able to witness first-hand the impact of the training on the participating teachers.

Sayed Anwar, a trainee, was asked by Mr. Baheer to share his feedback on the training.  “I really enjoyed the training and would definitely say that this was the best training I have every attended. I had attended different trainings, but still had lots of challenges in Math subject.  This training, besides solving these challenges, provided me with the opportunity to learn different teaching methodologies which can be used to teach Math. I always thought that the only method for teaching Math subject is lecturing, but now I have learnt different methods which will definitely help in conducting effective classes for my students.  I would really like to appreciate Community World Service Asia’s efforts and support on building teachers’ capacity and improving education quality.”

After attending the workshop, observing the training and listening to the comments and feedback of the participants, Mr. Baheer left with a much more positive view of Community World Service Asia’s work to support the professional development of teachers.  “I have visited a few training sessions conducted by different organizations and, honestly saying, they were just waste of time.  I was thinking that Community World Service Asia’s training would also be the same, but, as far as I saw, from the training room and the satisfaction of the participants, I believe it was a good training and you have really worked hard to make it happen.”  As well as demonstrating the quality and effectiveness of our trainings, Mr. Baheer’s comments highlight the importance of working in cooperation with government officials, and including them in our work so that we can continue to serve communities.

An 8 year old Kainat was spotted during our visit to DHQ Alpuri. She was injured when we met her as she was held by her father, who supports a family of nine including his wife, his father, two sons and four daughters. Kainat’s family are residents of the earthquake affected village Maal of UC Kuzkana, District Shangla.

“We were all sitting in the kitchen after having lunch when the earthquake hit with full intensity. We rushed and evacuated our house and gathered in the fields outside. I was looking around at the shaking houses, mountains and trees as the earthquake continued. Then, all of a sudden, our house started to collapse around me, giving me no time to move. A wooden beam fell on my leg while at the same time some pieces of stones hit my grandfather,”

narrated Kainat’s as she recalled her experience during the devastating earthquake.

Kainat’s father added, “Nearly fifty percent of houses were destroyed in our village but the neighbors whose houses survived showed great solidarity and immediately started helping those families affected. They  helped us to rescue my daughter and my father from the rubble and quickly moved them to the hospital. We reached RHC Karora in a state of emergency, where, after being provided with first aid, we were referred to the Swat Hospital, as Kainat’s leg was broken in two places and my father was severely injured. We received a thorough treatment at the Swat Hospital; my daughter was discharged but my father is still admitted there.”

Upon inquiring about the current needs of those affected by the earthquake, he replied that the affected communities are currently seeking shelter under polythene sheets in open fields as the other villagers help in providing them with food and comfort to the best of their abilities. The weather is becoming extremely cold. Tents, blankets and food items are most needed for families like Kainat’s to survive and recover.

“I have nothing left to lose any more.”

Sartaj Bacha is resident of Village Syedano Kalay in Tehsil Barikot, district Swat and was living quite a content life with his wife and five daughter. Despite not earning very handsomely since he was working on a daily wage, his life in his three room mud house was comfortable. Every morning he walked to work.

“The pouring rain on the day of the disastrous earthquake proved to be a blessing in disguise for my family and myself as I was home with them since I could not go to work due to the continuous rain. As the trembling of the earthquake began, I ran to take my four daughters and wife out of the house to a safer location but in haste I forgot my youngest daughter, Sania, two and a half years, sleeping in bed.”

Sania was buried under the debris of the fallen roof and the panicked parents could hear her helpless cries from beneath the rubble. With the help of his neighbors, Sartaj instantly reached out to Sania after digging her out from the rubble. She was dug out of the rubble uninjured miraculously. “Had I been not at home, I would have lost any one of my family members,” expressed Sartaj, holding Sania in his arms. “I thank God for sending rains as my family’s savior”.

“Even though I lost everything, I have my family with me.” Sartaj and his affected neighbors are living with their relatives in their house in a nearby village. The affected communities in this area have not yet received any immediate support from humanitarian or government agencies.  Most of the community members are being supported with food assistance by their relatives from the winter food stocks that they were holding. That stock is also being depleted quickly since it is feeding more than its intended recipients.

Sartaj Bacha expressed that he has not yet thought of any recovery or rehabilitation plans yet. All of his family’s belongings have been lost with the earthquake. Earning opportunities in Swat have diminished greatly since it has been affected by disasters one after the other- growing militancy, military operation followed by 2010 devastating floods and now this massive earthquake.

Community World Service Asia’s team is currently doing the needs assessment in district Swat, Shangla, Malakand, Buner and Kohistan districts. The initial information received from the field team indicates that winterization support, food and health support are direly needed by the communities. Community World Service Asia will start its interventions within this week for the affected people to cover the gap identified during the assessment.

Collected by Waheed Murad, Community World Service Asia Staff

 

Kamla is a resident of Surto Oad village in District Umerkot.  Kamla’s father, Mr. Mukesh Kumar, is the sole earner for her family, and was scarcely able to earn enough to support his household of eight people.  Women in these villages in rural Sindh are largely dependent on male family members for financial and social support.  It is extremely difficult for them to overcome cultural and social barriers to earn an income.  For Kamla, who is living with a disability, those barriers are especially difficult: “A I’m a physically disabled woman, I can’t go out for labor in agricultural fields as most of the women do.”

In spite of these difficulties, Kamla is resolved to support her family and help them to build a resilient future free of any financial worries.  “I have the art of embroidery. I can do embroidery work at my home also, and I can help my family to reduce financial burden.”

She believes that lack of education, ignorance of health issues and gender discrimination are the major obstacles to women’s empowerment in her community. She stated that when she was informed that an NGO (Community World Service Asia) was establishing an embroidery center at her village, a ray of hope was rekindled for her. She already knew the art of embroidery, but her work was never acknowledged and she did not receive due wages for her laborious work.

Despite having no formal vocational training, she is very skilled in embroidery and produces high quality work.  However, as she has been unable to properly market her products, her work remained underpaid.  “After taking the artisans’ skill test, I was informed that I have qualified the test and team selected me for the embroidery learning center. I was really glad to hear this news and was highly excited that now my skill will be improved and my work will be recognized with fair wages.”

Kamla explained how participating in the project will support her to earn a real income from her work: “After a three-month course on embroidery, and then an additional three months for production, I will be able to get an idea about marketing those products and what are the rates of market.  Then I can assist my father in terms of contributing income.”

Her father will also be engaged in the project activities as a gender activist.  Kamla shared how he is working to promote gender equality in the community after participating in Community World Service Asia’s TOT workshop for gender activists: “Since the training, he is delivering lectures on a regular basis with my neighbors and my relatives and motivates them to educate their daughters as well.” She is quite hopeful that the difference between male and female which society has created will now be reduced; women are now talking about their health issues with their male counterparts.

For Kamla, the most important impact of the project has been that she is now empowered to support her family.  “Around the clock, I remained in tension, wondering when I would be able to do something for my family. Now I have trust in myself that I can also help my family financially. Despite my physical disability, I can also be independent and can contribute my due share for the betterment of both my family and my community as well.”

“My husband, Habib Rehman, was killed six months ago when the militants attacked our village Dara-e-Robat in Chardara District in Kunduz. His death left us alone and very vulnerable as he was the only bread winner of the family. After his death, the conflict increased and since I feared for my children’s and my own life, we took with us whatever we could from our house and fled to Kunduz City. At that time, we felt Kunduz City would be a safe haven for us to live in and to start rebuilding our lives but it did not turn out that way. Although it was extremely difficult for me and is considered culturally shameful, I resorted to begging on the streets in order to feed my children.”

Mazari, Habib’s widow, also started working as a maid for wealthier families in a desperate attempt to earn more income for her six children. After a few weeks of the displacement, organizations arrived in Kunduz and provided humanitarian assistance to the displaced communities. Among these organizations was Community World Service Asia who assisted Mazari’s family among others with the provision of two month food rations. “This was very helpful as my tension eased and I did not have to worry about providing food to feed my children and could instead focus on looking for a job. With the assistance we received from Community World Service Asia and other organizations such as UNHCR, UNICEF and NRC, we began to feel a sense of hope towards living a better life,” said Mazari.

“Soon, Kunduz City became a war ground as well. The militants attacked the city and took control, followed by intense battles between them and the armed forces. I was terrified. We hid in our homes, unable to go out as that could mean an instant for us. The shops in the city were all closed; there was no water nor food items to cook meals with. We were left hungry even though we had dry food rations. My children were also frightened, especially of the hammering sounds of weapons and bombs exploding, which continued day and night.”

Many people, including women and children, were killed on the street that Mazari lived on. After three days of continued fighting, Mazari rushed to leave the war struck city with her children. The next morning, when the ongoing struggle seemed to have calmed, the helpless mother took the risk to come out of their shelter and started walking back to her own village. However upon reaching their village district, Mazari was informed that the situation there was still unstable and under militant siege. “I stood there confused and afraid, not knowing what to do next. After talking to the local communities there, I learnt that many people were migrating to Taluqan City of Takhar Province, which is the neighboring province to Kunduz. I was also given an address of a man who was transferring people to Takhar in his vehicle. I took my children along and stood at his door. I begged him to save children and me and to drive us to Taluqan. He finally agreed after pleading him for hours.”

Mazari has now relocated to Taluqan city. For the first two days, her children and her lived in a partially constructed house located inside a walled piece of land; mostly sleeping under the open sky. “The weather in Takhar is getting cooler especially during the night and it was becoming difficult to sleep and live in the open, especially for the children. I started looking for other displaced families in the city who would be interested in renting a house together. I found four such families from my own village and we finally found a house for all of us to rent out together.”

Even though the rent was not much, it was still expensive for Mazari to afford so she borrowed money from some relatives to contribute equally in the rent. The house they rented had five rooms so each family got a room. The tiny room in the house was home for Mazari and her five daughters and a son. As this destitute family fled Kunduz City in haste, they left most of their belongings in their house and did not have nothing in Taluqan. Neighbors and other displaced families sometimes assisted the families living in the house with food which all the five families shared, leaving insufficient amounts for each person to consume.

“We slept on the bare ground without any mattress or blanket. It was much better than sleeping in the open air but it was still quite cold. I was grateful to a kind family who gave me an old blanket, a quilt and a pillow which my children could take over them at night. We, the displaced community, approached the government but they did not provide us any assistance in Taluqan.  I am tired of running and I am fearful for my children and myself. Who will help us?” wept an exhausted Mazari.

Mazari is in contact with Community World Service Asia staff and has informed the staff of her return from Takhar to Kunduz city since now the government has taken back control of the city from the insurgents.  Upon return, she found the shelter she once lived in with her children before the Kunduz conflict completely destroyed. All of her belongings that she received from generous families and humanitarian agencies left there were burnt or looted. Mazari and her family, like hundreds other, are currently living without food and shelter in Kunduz city.

 

Ms. Kainat is a teacher at one of Community World Service Asia’s Adult Literacy Centers, equipping rural women with basic literacy and numeracy skills.

  1. How did you become a teacher?

It was my childhood wish to become a teacher, so after passing my Intermediate examination I started teaching in private schools. Then I applied in UNICEF for an adult literacy project, where I started to teach adult women, who had never been to school. That was the start of my teaching experience.

  1. Why do you think it’s important for women in rural areas to have literacy skills?

It is commonly observed that women in rural areas are not allowed to go outside the home, whether it is for getting an education or to do any job, although they may want to.  I think it is important for women in rural areas to have literacy skills, because if they are literate then they can participate more efficiently in any development activities of their area, they can be able to read and write the basic literacy words and numbers which are also essential for their life. Not only this, but if they start their own business, this literacy skill can build up their confidence and help out them to keep the balance record of expenditure, profit and loss.

  1. Did you have any concerns before your first class? What were your expectations?

Yes, I had just one concern about what their response would be, as they are going to join literacy classes for the very first time in their life, but I had some expectations that by utilizing my experience I would try my level best to teach them.

  1. What teaching methodologies do you use? In what ways do the students find these to be effective?

I teach students through different activities like playing games and role plays. I bring them on stage or give them space for discussion to build their confidence level. I also motivate them by giving small gifts so that their interest level can be enhanced and they can be more encouraged.

  1. What progress have you observed in the students?

Before starting the adult literacy course, they were facing difficulty even in holding a pencil, in recognition and pronunciation of words. They were very shy in asking questions or coming forward, but after attending the classes they have become confident, they take part in different project related activities like the celebration of International Literacy Day. They are able to read and write their name, small words and sentences. Now they easily recognize their Computerized National Identity Card by the numbers written on that. They read the expiry date before using any medicine and are familiar with the basic concept of adding and subtraction.

  1. Has anything surprised you?

I was surprised when some of the women told me that initially their men were not allowing them to join the Adult Literacy Centre.  The men were discouraging them, but in spite of that, the women did not leave their hope to learn literacy skills and didn’t say, “Sorry, but we can’t join the ALC.”  They tried to motivate their men by telling them the benefits of the centre, and they continued their classes.

  1. What motivates you to teach these students?

These women have never been to school, but they know the value and importance of education. Whatever homework has been assigned, they try to complete it and also ask to extend the ALC classes to learn more and more. So their level of interest towards getting knowledge and learning to read and write motivates me to teach them.

  1. How do you hope that your classes will help them in the long-term?

I think that their level of interest for learning will help them to learn by themselves even more. Also, literacy skills will help them when they go on to use their vocational training [provided by Community World Service Asia] to support their livelihood.  They are also sharing the information and the knowledge which they learn from ALC classes with their children and family members.

  1. How do you think these classes benefit the community as a whole?

The community has become more aware of the importance of girl’s education.  The Village Organization has taken initiative to increase the enrolment of girls in the village school, women are now allowed to come for literacy classes from neighboring areas. The Village Organization is also planning to promote girls’ education in their surrounding villages.  In this way, the establishment of adult literacy is gradually bringing change in the community.

“Floods make the poor, the poorest” – Mai Pathani (Gotkhi, Sindh)

Mai Pathani is a 50 year old housewife from the village of Nehal Chachar in Union Council (UC) Qadir Pur in Gotkhi, Sindh. Her husband is a barber named Khawand Buksh. The couple has four daughters and three sons together.  Mai Pathani has kept two goats to contribute to the household income since her husband’s income alone is insufficient for the family of nine.

CO-PIC-00034-15 (1)Before the floods hit their village this year, Khawand Buksh provided hair cutting bservices to the village residents and in return each of his clients paid him with wheat grains after each harvest. Some of his clients in the village also offered Buksh’s family food supplies.  However, this support was inconsistent.

Despite living in poverty and on limited resources, Mai Pathani’s zest for life was alive. She celebrated Eid with her neighbors and relatives in the village with enthusiasm not knowing the day to follow would leave her house and her village under water. Mai Pathani and the rest of the villagers were completely unaware of the coming rains when all of a sudden heavy showers started pouring in and within minutes flood water had entered the village.

The residents of Nehal Chachar were informed by authorities that the water level in their village would not rise and they could stay in the village without any worry. There had not been any major flooding in the area since 2010 so the villagers were quite confident about the safety of their village. However, on the night of 18th July, 2015, following Eid day, heavy showers of rain lasted the whole day with water overflowing from Indus River entering the village and submerging it completely. Mai Pathani’s family among many other villagers rushed to leave the flooded Nehal Chachar in the midst of the night. By this time the flood waters had risen up to five feet inside their homes.

Khawand Buksh’s limited income did not allow him to afford renting a boat to carry his family members along with their household essentials out of their plummeting village to the emergency evacuation area at Qadir Pur Band. Inevitably, the family took the risk of sailing out of the village on a large sized frying pan despite the continuing heavy rains and strong winds. Buksh’s family had used the same transport method to float out of their village during the 2010 floods as well. It took them almost an hour to reach the Loop Bund via the frying pan.

Watching an entire family floating in just a frying pan surrounded by nothing but water was quite terrifying for onlookers. However many could not see how Mai Pathani’s family was barely floating economically and socially as well. The family did not own any land or any sustainable assets to ensure their dietary sustenance. To add on, barbers and their families are often socially marginalized in communities in this area; the rigid class system denies such families an equal right to education and participation in social and political spheres.

Mai Pathani’s house and their preserved stock of 480 kgs of wheat had been washed away by the floods. Agricultural and domestic assets of other villagers who often supported their family were also destroyed. Temporarily living at a shelter in Qadirpur Bund, Khawand Buksh sometimes travels to the nearby town to find some clients for his barber service. If fortunate to find clients, he earns PKR 50 a day.   Earning this amount and sharing the meal bought by it with other affected families means that his own family hardly consumes a nutritional meal. The family is desperately struggling to make ends meet.

Previously when the floods had not yet hit this peaceful village, Mai Pathani’s family at least took two meals in a day; both the meals consisted of either pulses or vegetables but were sufficient for their family.  Since the advent of the floods however, the family’s meals reduced to one a day as pulses and vegetables were scarcely available.  Being a woman and coming from a socially marginalized background, the floods and the ensuing displacement has exposed Mai Pathani to not just apparent risks as food insecurity but also to many protection issues.

Being in a displaced setting, Mai Pathani and her two adolescent daughters have to wait the whole day to use the temporary constructed latrines.  They have to wait till its dark and there are no men around the latrine area. Pathani and Buksh’s youngest son used to attend school but since the village was hit by the floods, his education has been put on hold too. As a responsible mother and a devoted wife, Mai Pathani’s hardship and sacrifices do not end here. She first feeds her seven children and her husband and eats only if there is any food left over after they have consumed their meal.

Mai Pathani’s family was among the affected communities supported by Community World Service Asia’s Emergency Humanitarian assistance project for Floods Response in Gotkhi last month. She expressed that the food assistance by the organization has made a positive (suthu) impact on their lives. Before the emergency assistance was provided to them, the family only got to eat rice twice a week if lucky.  Whereas since the support from Community World Service Asia, they are eating rice more often in a week. The quantity and quality of their daily meals has since then improved as well. Now they have more supply of pulses and wheat bread which makes up a more nutritional meal for the family.

The Buksh family, more popularly known as “the floating family” now hope to return to their village and their home within the next two weeks. They are hoping the flood water levels will recede by then.  The committed Mai Pathani plans to help her husband in reconstructing their house once they return to their village. They are optimistic that they will reconstruct the house after a month once the land is fully dry. Though, belonging to a socially marginalized family, Mai Pathani and her husband do not have very high hopes for a drastic change in their life after returning home.

While other villagers will start sowing seeds in their crop fields, the floating family will wait for the harvest of the other farmers to share a small portion of their crop produce with them in return of Khawand Buksh’s barber services. Till then, Mai Pathani worries about the availability of sufficient food for her children. The worried mother envisages that if her children, including daughters, were equipped with some skills they would not have to depend entirely on the crop yields of others. Instead the family would earn and provide for themselves living in their own village.

Written By: Muhammad Fazil, Edited By: Palwashay Arbab