Aid workers “race against time” in Afghanistan’s cold

PULL-e-ALAM, Afghanistan (AP) – A twinkling flame of paper, rags and random twigs is the only warmth Gulnaz has to keep her 18-month-old son warm, barely visible under his icy blanket as he The cold highway on the road to Kabul begs bitterly.

The 70-kilometre (45 mi) long section of the highway is covered with snow-capped hills. Sometimes a driver slows down his car and drops an Afghani note into the bare, dirty hand of a 28-year-old woman. She sits for hours in the middle of the highway, which is located right in front of a bump in the road that slows down traffic.

His 16-year-old sister Khaleda is sitting nearby. Both are hiding behind blue veils. By the end of the day, Gulnaz, who gave just one name, says he can make 300 afghanis ($2.85). But most days are less.

Watch: Humanitarian crisis deepens in Afghanistan due to severe cold

The Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan in August drove billions of dollars in international aid out of the country and pushed an already filth-poor nation ravaged by war, drought and floods to humanitarian catastrophe.

But in recent weeks it has been a cold winter that is ravaging the most vulnerable and international aid organizations scrambling to save millions from starvation or cold because they have no food and no food. This is fuel. For the poorest people the only means of heat or cooking are coal or wood that they can get from snowy roads or from aid groups.

Shelley Thakral, a spokeswoman for the World Food Program in Afghanistan, said: “The problem for the people in Afghanistan now is dire.” “We’re calling it a race against time. We need to reach families in very difficult, inhospitable areas. It’s winter, it’s cold, it’s snow.”

The cost of human effort is staggering. Thakral said this year alone the WFP would need $2.6 billion.

“Break down that number. It’s $220 million a month, it’s 30 cents per person per day, and that’s what we’re asking for. . . . We need money because we need to reach people as quickly as possible. , “He said.

Earlier this month the United Nations launched its largest-ever single-country appeal for more than $5 billion in aid to devastated Afghanistan.

It is estimated that nearly 90 percent of Afghanistan’s 38 million people depend on aid, and the United Nations says about three million people have been displaced in their own country, driven from their homes by drought, war and famine. have been displaced.

In 2020 alone, 700,000 Afghans were displaced, many living in desperate conditions on the outskirts of cities, in parks and open spaces, wherever they could set up a temporary shelter.

Gulnaz moved from the northern province of Kunduz to the central Logar province, where her husband was a police officer. But her work dried up with the war and the arrival of the Taliban, and “here we are,” she said, as she sat with her sister by the side of the highway connecting Logar’s capital, Pul-e-Alam, to Kabul.

“We don’t have heat in the house and every day whether it’s raining or snowing, we come and sit here,” she said.

In Pul-e-Alam, where temperatures can drop to minus-16 °C (3 °F) in January and February, thousands of men and women line up in the freezing cold to receive rations of flour from the World Food Programme. are oil, salt and pulses.

The WFP surveyed the city for the needy, giving each a voucher to collect their rations, but word quickly spread through the snow and mud-covered streets that food was being distributed and soon several men and women The women pushed and pleaded for ration. A fight broke out between some of the crowd and the security forces tried to surround those without vouchers from one side.

Each day for a week this month, the WFP distributed rations to 500 families a day, said Hussain Andisha, who manages the distribution. He said that most of the people of Logar province are desperate.

As he spoke, four women wearing burqa overtook the men at the gate to collect the vouchers. No one had a ration card, but they pleaded for food. One woman, who gave her name only as Sadrat, said her husband was a drug addict – a devastating problem that has grown over the past two decades, with one million people, or 8% of Afghanistan’s population, as addicts. According to the United Nations, Afghanistan produces more than 4,000 tons of opium annually, a raw material used to make heroin.

“I don’t know where he is. I don’t have food for my kids. Please I need some,” she said.

Like hundreds of thousands of Afghans, poverty and conflict drove Sadrat and his five children to the capital, 38 kilometers (24 mi) from their rural home in the Charakh district of Logar province.

Shouting from behind Sadrat, another woman, Riza Gul, said that she has 10 children and a husband who earns less than a day as a laborer, the day she finds work.

“What can we do? Where can we go?” He pleaded.

Read more: Afghanistan is in humanitarian crisis. Here’s How You Can Help

Andisha said the January distribution would provide staples to 2,250 families in Pul-e-Alam, the capital of about 23,000 people. WFP has already surveyed seven districts of Logar province and started distribution in four. The roads are deep in snow and the path is slow and can be treacherous for hundreds of trucks carrying food.

Andisha said the need is desperate and gets worse with each passing day.

“Even from the very first day we reached here, the situation has worsened. People have no jobs,” he said, adding that women who worked before the Taliban came to power “can no longer work in government departments.”

“It is certain that the situation will get worse,” he said.

The Taliban administration in Logar has not interfered with WFP aid work, Andisha said, and has provided security at distribution sites.

WFP spokeswoman Thakral said donors’ contributions go directly to people, even as aid organizations and the international community struggle to address one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters without directly dealing with Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers. We do.

“People come first and that’s important to remember in this humanitarian crisis,” she said. “We work independently of the actual government, so there is an assurance that any donations received will be given directly to the people.”

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