NOTE: This is a guest blog post from Peter Wilson, Program Support Officer for Afghanistan for Concern Worldwide.
As the warmth of springtime settles across North America and Europe, northern Afghanistan is just now thawing from what many consider to be the worst winter in living memory — the destruction it leaves behind will be felt for some time to come. In February this year, stories emerged that children were dying in Kabul’s displacement camps because of the extreme cold, while in Badakhshan, a province in the far northeast corner of the country, heavy snowfall triggered catastrophic avalanches, burying entire villages in feet of snow.
However, little has been told about what the people of Badakhshan endured this winter and how they continue to be at-risk as the snow begins to melt. This is largely because it is so incredibly difficult to access. An extremely remote and mountainous region, communities in Badakhshan can be entirely cut off from the outside world for up to seven months a year. Most villages can only be reached by horseback or foot across treacherous paths dotted with ravines, rockslides, and landslides.
After a string of avalanches left dozens injured and trapped in their homes, Concern Worldwide launched an emergency response program to bring lifesaving assistance to some 30,000 of the most affected and isolated people. Because people had no access to markets, Concern began to clear snow roads using donkeys and horses and provided fodder to some 2,000 households in 30 villages to help their animal’s feed — and sole livelihoods — survive the winter.
Last month, I travelled some 12 hours by horse to six different villages with a team of remarkably committed and courageous Afghan colleagues that to reach one village to the next — or even one part of a town to another — is nothing short of a miracle.
Main Photo: After their house fell into a ravine, Jamaluddin, his wife, and his six children have been living in a one-room shelter built for animals for the past five months. Photo courtesy of Concern Worldwide.
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