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Afghanistan: the story of Alidad

13-11-2008 Feature

Hundreds of thousands of Afghans in the north of the country may have to leave their homes this winter because of drought, insecurity and rising food prices. The ICRC and the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) have launched a major food distribution operation for 280,000 people in the provinces of Kunduz, Balkh, Faryab and Badghis, in northern and north-western Afghanistan. A report from Wahab Sifil and Zalmai of the ICRC’s Kabul delegation and Mazar sub-delegation.

   

©ICRC/Abdul Wahab Saifi/V-P-AF-E-01436    
 
Alidad outside his house, with some of the rice supplied by the ICRC. 
         

" If you woke up this morning in good health and with enough to eat and drink, you are more fortunate than many of us here in Namaz Sai, " said 67 year-old Alidad, who lives in the village of Namaz Sai, in Kunduz province.

Alidad spent his childhood growing wheat and ric e in the rain-fed fields. Back then, there was enough food to feed the family, to sell at market and to help cover the family’s other needs. Now he stares at 5 hectares of dry, empty land.

    

Alidad lives with his wife and three daughters in a small house with no door or windows. Ever since he and the other farmers realised that there would be no harvest this year, he has been struggling to find a job. But Alidad is old and frail, and employers want strong young men.

“It’s a good day when we eat bread and water,” said Alidad. “And I miss my son Sakhidad. He couldn’t find a job either, so he went abroad last spring to look for work. He was going to try and provide for us, but we’ve heard nothing since.”

But not all is gloom and doom in Kunduz. Back in August, Alidad was overjoyed to hear that the ICRC and the ARCS would be helping destitute families in drought-stricken villages like his. One morning, the chief made an announcement on the loudspeakers of Namaz Sai Mosque, calling on all villagers to come and register. He explained that the most vulnerable families would receive help from the ICRC and the ARCS. " It was a great relief to know that someone cared about our family and the others in the village. We had been praying for something like this. Now we knew we would survive the winter! " ARCS volunteers collected the list from the chief of all the villages in Khanabad district. Alidad's family was among the hardest hit, so they were told they would be receiving aid.

One day in early October, the ICRC food convoy approached his village. " Until that moment, I didn’t believe we would have food for the winter. They gave us rice, beans, ghee, sugar, tea and salt, " said a smiling Alidad. " God bless the ICRC. We are grateful for the work you and the Afghan Red Crescent do. It gives us hope for a brig hter tomorrow. "