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World Health Day provides an opportunity for the global community to come together to focus on interventions and actions that lead to improving human health. Every year an important issue is highlighted. This year WHO says “Depression: Let’s Talk”. Community World Service Asia has been working in Pakistan and Afghanistan’s health sector, providing assistance to the poor and marginalized since 1993. To bring healthcare to the poorest of the poor, Community World Service Asia has become an organization that empowers people and communities to eliminate injustices through integrated efforts in health, education and development. We have provided basic healthcare services that have directly facilitated 99,709 patients. Today in celebration of World Health Day 2017, we tell you a moving story of one of these patients and her recovery from a common, yet most under-estimated, mental illness- depression.

Abida, daughter of Gulajan, is a 35 years old widow from Shamoram village of Alishang district in Laghman Province.

“I am a widow and mother of five children. My eldest daughter is just 17 years old. My husband was a policeman and the sole bread earner for our family. He did not earn much but we were a happily bonded family.”

Abida gets upset even today as she mentions the ill-fated day that turned her blissful life around.

“I was baking bread when I heard a crowd of people moaning outside our house. Some men were carrying a chaarpaai (wooden bed) with a body lying on it draped in a white cloth. It was my husband, Shaihdullah! I fainted instantly when I saw him lying lifeless.”

Her husband died while he was at work where he was killed in a terrorist attack.

Abida now lives with her father-in-law who is an aged man and unable to support their family.

“I lost quite a lot that day; my husband, caregiver, father to my children, a supporting son of an elderly father and the only income bearer of the household.”

Abida’s father provided financial support for healthcare expenses and with purchasing clothes for her children occasionally.

“After my husband’s loss, I was terribly broken. I use to have body pains and felt weak most of the times. I used to spend hours thinking about the future of my children without the support of their father. I was unable to sleep as well which was deteriorating my health.”

Abida’s father-in-law had to take her to Gamba clinic which was at an hour’s distance from their hometown. This was time consuming and expensive.

“The doctors there prescribed painkillers but it was only giving me short term relief. I could not consume painkillers at all times as it was not curing my problem. I was trying very hard to adjust but every passing day was becoming difficult to survive for me.”

“One day, I was very depressed and could not stop crying. My brother then took me to the doctor. After explaining my condition to him, he prescribed some medicines for stress relief and advised me to visit him weekly. But due to financial constraints, I was unable to visit the doctor regularly as it was expensive and I had to travel a long distance for which I needed my father or brother to accompany me. I did not want to worry them again and again as they had their own responsibilities to handle.”

Abida then found out about the MNCH established by Community World Service Asia in Shamoram village. This was quite a relief for her.  She hesitated to discuss her issue when she initially visited the MNCH.

“The female staff at the MNCH was very friendly. Looking at my condition, the midwife knew something was wrong and that I was not telling the whole story.”

Abida shared her troubled story and the anxiety she was experiencing. She elaborated on how her bad health was effecting her children and family.

“The midwives listened to me patiently as I let my heart out to them. The doctor then prescribed stress relief medicines and advised to visit the MNCH on a weekly basis.”

Abida visited the doctor as prescribed as the MNCH was not far and easily accessible. She did not need her brother or father in law to accompany her to make these visits and regularly went on her own.

“The women staff at the MNCH provided good counselling. I continued my treatment for almost seven months on a regular basis as suggested. Now I can confidently say that I am a healthy mother taking care of my children and father-in-law. Bad times come and go; we have to stay strong for the people who are with us today.”

Since her treatment, Abida had visited the MNCH for health assistance for her children. Abida, along with many other community members of Laghman villages have benefitted from the services provided at the health centers established in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Rural communities residing in remote areas are vulnerable and unable to avail healthcare services easily. The establishment of the health centers in remote areas are providing basic healthcare facilities which have turned many lives around for the better.

Blood feuds handed down through generations are very common in parts of Afghanistan, and revenge is regarded as a necessary redress of the many wrongs of the past no matter what the present circumstances. Many are left to fend for themselves regardless of their role in such legendary feuds. Gullali, mother of five children, was a victim of one such incident that changed her life dramatically.

Living a happy and content life with her husband, an experienced mason, her four sons and a daughter in Pashaiee Village, Mehterlam, Gullali and her family were blessed with all the comforts of a basic life;  adequate food, healthcare, education, clothing and other household needs. A tragic turning point in the life of Gullali came when her husband was killed in October (2016) by an unknown assailant in front of their own home. Gullali was left alone and in a state of worry and fear for the lives of her children and herself.  She was therefore forced to leave everything behind and move to Samtado Village, Mehterlam, where her parents lived.

In Samtado, Gullali’s living conditions deteriorated from what they were at her lovely home. Gullali and her children temporarily lived within an old, mud built room at her parent’s house. She had very little family support as her parents did not earn very well and she was unable to bare the daily expenses of her five children. Some of their fellow villagers, helped Gullali on and off financially while most other time she earned a meagre income through cleaning the houses of their neighbours in the village.

The Directorate of Returnees and Refugees Office in Afghanistan knew of Gullali and her poor state of affairs through their assessments and introduced her to Community World Service Asia. As Community World Service Asia had recently launched a project with the support of Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and Church of Sweden (CoS), to respond to the needs of Afghan returnees and internally displaced people (IDPs), the team was happy to support her through the project.

The team assessed Gullali’s living conditions and was soon provided with assistance and support as she was going through a very hard time. Gullali was initially provided an emergency shelter (tent) for her children and her to live in safely as her temporary residence, due to its weak structure, could possibly collapse any day. Gullali was very pleased to move in the tent as she was also provided with additional facilities that would keep her children warm in the coming, freezing winter. The family was also able to access to the health facilities set up by Community World Service Asia for all returning refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in the emergency shelters. Gullali’s children are also attending school in makeshift schools near their present home and are living a comparatively comfortable life.

This project is successfully being implemented running in the Laghman and Nangarhar provinces of Afghanistan under which basic health facilities are also provided to families residing in the emergency shelters.

Zakira shares her artistic skills

“May I come to this room and learn what you are teaching?”

Eight-year-old Zakira became the youngest participant at a recent teachers’ training workshop held by Community World Service Asia at Qala-e-Shikhan Girls’ High School in the Laghman province of Afghanistan.

During the workshop, the facilitators introduced the teachers to the concept of nature and nurture by asking them to think about students that they liked and students whom they found difficult, and to explore the reasons behind their feelings.  Zakira shared that the classmate she most admired was a girl who always helped the other girls in the classroom.

The daughter of a mason, Zakira is the seventh of eleven siblings in a large family which struggles to make ends meet.  In spite of her difficult circumstances, Zakira inspired the team with her energy and interest in learning.

“I will become a teacher and teach children,” she shared.

Although she is not yet able to write, she participated in a poetry competition which was included in the workshop.  The team recorded her ideas and awarded her a runner-up prize for her imaginative verse.

“If I were a bird, I would fly, and when I got tired, I would sit on a tree with peace,” Zakira recited.

Community World Service Asia hopes to support Zakira to fly as she pursues her education, and looks forward to seeing where she lands.

DurationDec 08, 2015Feb 07, 2016
LocationAlingar, Mehtarlam, Alishang and Qarghaye districts of Laghman Province, Afghanistan
Key Activities
  • Distribution of Winterization Kits
  • Cash disbursement
Participants285 earthquake affected families

Intense Armed conflict between Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and Armed Opposition Groups (AOGs) has led to large-scale displacement in Kunduz, Takhar, Kunar, Sari-pul and Nangarhar provinces of Afghanistan. The currently affected areas were already hosting IDPs from other areas but with the recent crisis; those IDPs are displaced again and will also have to move along with the local people. The number of IDPs is increasing as the government of Afghanistan has also announced the continual of the military operation.

Based on UNHCR’s recent report, the conflict-induced internal displacement in the North, North East and Eastern regions of Afghanistan has increased in the last two months. As of UNOCHA’s recent report number approximately 10,000 families are displaced within the Northeast.

Present estimates suggest that by the end of the year, more than 48,500 families / 324,000 individuals may become displaced, which would make 2015 one of the worst years for conflict-induced displacement in Afghanistan since 2002. During the months June and July, 21 out of 34 Provinces in Afghanistan have been affected by forced movements of population due to conflict.

Kunduz Province: A rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation is reported in the city.  In May crisis in Khan Abad, Imam-shahib, Gultipa and some other parts of the province caused the displacement of thousands of families from Gultepa, Alchin, Telawka, Bozi Qandari, Hazrat Sultan, Qala-e-Zal, Dasht-e-Archi, Chardarah, Aliabad and other districts of Kuduz province. The families have been displaced to Kunduz Provincial Capital city and to some semi urban areas of the city.

As of the most recently, people started to flee from the city and most of the people moved to the villages in the adjacent districts of Aliabad, Chardarah, Emam saheb, Khanabad and some have moved south via Baghlan province to Kabul. Many families fleeing from Kunduz are moving towards Kabul. As per voice of America, 6,000 families have been displaced so far in Kunduz only. The recent clashes have also resulted in civilian casualties, people lost their crops which were ready to harvest and these fights have damaged their properties too.  Lack of relief services in Kunduz city is a major concern right now. WHO reported that emergency medical services and stocks of food are needed urgently. In Kunduz City water and electricity is cut off in many places.

Takhar Province: Intense clashes and quick shifting of territorial control between parties in conflict has provoked multiple displacements of people in Khuja Ghar District,  Baharak, Taloqan and Dashte-Qala districts of Takhar. A major conflict in the bordering districts of Kunduz and Takhar province has also caused displacement of population from Kunduz to Takhar. Sunatullah Taimour, spokesman of Takhar governor, told Pajhwok Afghan News that more than 6,000 families from Kunduz have moved to Taluqan, Baharak, Farkhar, Warsaj and Kalafgan districts.

In the areas of displacement, most of the families are living in crowded conditions and shared accommodations. They expressed the intention to return as soon as the situation improves. However, their houses and livelihoods have been totally destroyed. Shelter and food are needed for the displaced communities.

Nangarhar: Nangarhar province (especially Jalalabad city) has a large number of Afghan returnees from Pakistan. It also has a large population of conflict induced IDPs residing there from neighboring provinces like Laghman, Kunar, and Nuristan and also has a continuous influx of IDPs from remote districts particularly from Kot and Achin. Families are settling in Jalalabad, Behsud, Rodat and Shurkhrod districts, and also in the neighboring rural districts close to Achin. Nangarhar provincial capital is likely to remain the main receiver of displaced people from Laghman, Kunar and Nuristan provinces.

Response by Community World Service Asia: Community World Service Asia has been responding to the needs of IDPs in Kunduz Province providing monthly food package for two months with the support of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Direct contact with stakeholders in the affected areas, including local government, partners and those assisted during the recent response has been established. We are closely monitoring the situation and will plan a response based on the needs and gaps identified.

Contacts:
Allan A. Calma
Deputy Director
Disaster Management Program
Email: allan.calma@communityworldservice.asia
Cell: +92 301 5801621

Muhammad Fazal
Associate Director
Emergencies/DRR/Climate Change
Email: fazil.sardar@communitryworldservice.asia
Cell: +92 332 5586134

Palwashay Arbab
Senior Communications Officer
Email: palwashay.arbab@communityworldservice.asia
Cell: +92 42 3586 5338

Sources: http://www.thefrontierpost.com/article/339814//
Voice of America
UNOCHA Afghanistan

DurationJan 01, 2015Jan 31, 2016
LocationNangarhar and Laghman provinces
Key Activities
  • Subject-specific training for teachers on Biology, Chemistry, General Science and Mathematics;
  • Training for teachers on pedagogical techniques, creating an engaging learning environment through participatory methods and low and no cost materials;
  • Mobilizing the community to promote support for girls’ education;
  • Training for community and religious leaders on child rights and gender issues;
  • Development of active Parent-Teacher Committees to build links between schools and communities;
  • Provision of school materials to students
Participants100 teachers
120 parents/community members
480 Parent-Teacher Committee members
1,000 female students

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DurationApr 01, 2013Mar 31, 2016
LocationNangarhar and Laghman provinces
Key Activities
  • Political and civic education summer camps for girls
  • Student-centered teacher training for teachers
  • Community awareness sessions on the importance of girls’ education
  • Development of teacher resource centers
  • Establishment of playgrounds
Participants10,787 female students
1,089 teachers
620 parents
200 community members

Teaching is not just a job for me. It is my dream to help children learn, read, and write. Now, through the support of the project, parent-teacher committee, and community development council members, I am once again living my dream.

Zahida, a teacher in Laghman

If every organization focused on the quality of their trainings like this, for sure we would soon witness a quality education system with a capacitated team all over the country.

District Governor of Qarghai, as chief guest at the closing ceremony of a teachers’ training workshop

Using these methods and activities has resulted in decreasing the number of absentees.

Nasreen, a teacher in Nangarhar

More about Education

video

126
International Literacy Day (ILD), celebrated annually on September 8, shines a spotlight on global literacy needs. It celebrates and honors the five decades of national and international...

226
Heena, a Grade 3 teacher at the Abdurahman Pazhwak Girls High School, one of the participating schools under the Girls Education Project in Nangarhar,...

377
According to the American Camp Association (ACA), youth development experts agree that children need a variety of experiences in their lives to help them...

DurationDec 01, 2011Nov 30, 2014
LocationQarghai, Alingar, Alishang, and Dawlat Shah districts of Laghman
Key Activities
  • Construction of delivery rooms
  • Enhancement of services in new and existing health facilities
  • Provision of health education
  • Provision of mother and child health services
Participants26,811 women of childbearing age, their spouses, and children

"Women are happy with the maternal health services that have started here. People are usually unable to afford proper health services and have to travel a long distance to reach them"

28 year old pregnant woman during a visit to Chapdarya sub-health center

"I was malnourished and had micronutrient deficiency, but now, I am healthy. I regularly come for antenatal check-ups and attended health education sessions and cooking demonstrations. My capacity has increased, and I am receiving proper care. I believe I will safely carry this baby to delivery."

Grana, a 30 year old woman from Nangarhar

"Our problems are solved and we are helped when we come to this health facility."

Bakhzarina, a mother from Nangarhar

To increase knowledge about civic education and improve the quality of teaching and learning in schools, a five-day “Masters Teacher Training on Pedagogical Skills” was held from February 10 – 14, 2014. Twenty male teachers from seven girls’ high schools in Qarghayee district of Laghman province in Afghanistan, attended the training with the aim to acquire knowledge, skills and practical proficiency to become good trainers.

During the training teachers were introduced to child centered approaches and methodology to foster an environment which promotes physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development of children. To strengthen the capacity of teachers, a variety of training methodologies and facilities were adopted by applying principles of adult learning and steps to behavioral change by using audio-visuals; and practicing training sessions. The basic principle is to share information by active participation to increase the interest and efficacy of the trainees and introduce them to ways about how to make learning fun and interesting by creative activities. The teachers were encouraged to replicate and share their learning’s and enhanced skills with other teachers within their schools, community and stakeholders to develop their capacity. “Usually the trainings I have attended were all theory based but this training was practical which helped us to learn more. This training was very well and I learned how to develop low cost teaching material. I will also share my experience and learning with other teachers,” said Najeebullah, a teacher who attended the training.