Afghanistan : Winter looms in drought-stricken Ghor
31-10-2002 News Release 02/44
In front of his small earthen house, Mohamed Yakoub is making tea. His wife is baking bread with ICRC-supplied wheat in an oven dug in the ground.
This is all that the 12 members of the family will have to eat today. Occasionally they are able to add a few eggs and a little ewe's milk to this everyday fare. Like other villagers in Ghor province, in mountainous central Afghanistan, they lost everything in a few years. The conflict had made life difficult, but the drought came as a deathblow.
On these arid hills, with no rainfall and no water from melting snow, the wheat and pea harvests dwindled to such an extent that families had no choice but to sell whatever they had little by little in order to survive, including over 90% of the livestock that made up all their wealth. " The 54 families in our village had around 1,000 goats and sheep, 500 cows and over 200 donkeys " , explains Mohamed Yakoub. " They provided milk, wool, and meat, and also ploughed the fields and served as a means of transport. Today, there are no more than 20 sheep, 20 cows and a few donkeys left. "
After selling his livestock, Mohamed Yakoub sold the few pieces of furniture he possessed and his rugs. He borrowed more and more money until he had no alternative but to leave the village and seek help elsewhere. His family, like most of the villagers, spent three years in a camp for displaced people in Herat. Now that he has returned to Ghor, he hopes the drought will end and counts on aid from humanitarian organizations — from the ICRC in particular, which is focusing on providing food supplies.
The ICRC's aid operation in Ghor is currently its largest in the world. This year it will have twice provided all inhabitants of the province (some 700,000 persons) with food aid — in all, nearly 36,000 tonnes of wheat, split peas, oil and salt. Every family will have received from the ICRC the equivalent of a quarter of what it consumes annually. The last distributions of food aid before winter will be completed this month.
In a country bled dry by 23 years of war, the drought affecting its least accessible province, where some passes are over 3,000 metres above sea level, is having tragic consequences. Even if rain returns this year, it will take the families at least five years to repay their debts, and over seven or eight years to build up their herds and flocks again. Next year, the ICRC's aid in the province will focus on the most destitute families, such as that of Mohamed Yakoub, and will include seed distributions and veterinary care for livestock to help farmers (over 95% of the population) get back on their feet again.