10 years in Afghanistan: A road paved with successes and challenges
It was ten years ago this fall that Mission East started its operations in Afghanistan.
Thousands of Afghans have since received assistance, but conflict and natural disasters continue to make life difficult for large parts of the population.
In October 2001, several jeeps crossed the Painj River north of the city of Kunduz in Afghanistan. They were coming from the neighbouring country of Tajikistan, where for several years Mission East had had a regional office. The jeeps were carrying office supplies, communication equipment and key Mission East personnel. On the way they passed mud brick houses and skirted around large craters and potholes created by bombs and missiles.
Till then it had not been possible to open an office in Afghanistan because of the conflict, but now a window of opportunity had opened up.
A lower number of children are dying
This has since led to 45,000 Afghans receiving hygiene education and the building of 8,000 latrines and 200 water systems. This means that fewer children each year are at risk of dying from dehydration and other waterborne diseases. 75,000 people have been linked to markets, and health and educational facilities through the building of roads. Tens of thousands of Afghans have more and better food available to them because of improved agricultural practices, trainings and inputs on kitchen gardening and basic nutrition, and improved food storage and processing. Many households have also been assisted in the marketing and sale of excess produce which has provided extra incomes.
“Our help to the population in Afghanistan matters. We actually make a difference for thousands of people who no longer need to see their small children die or lose the main breadwinner, so life becomes a struggle for pure survival. Thousands of children survive and have just a little more hope in a country which is the world’s worst place to live in for a child,” says Managing Director Kim Hartzner.
Assistance to remote communities
Today Mission East in Afghanistan employs 175 staff members, has three main bases and six sub-offices providing livelihood development to remote communities through food security initiatives, access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, special support to women, and disaster risk reduction and infrastructure initiatives.
Continuous need for humanitarian assistance
The challenges of working in Afghanistan continue to be daunting. The ongoing conflict has made access to vulnerable communities more difficult and has also prevented the government from rolling out large scale national development programmes. Mission East however still continues to enjoy access building upon years of carefully cultivated relationships with the local communities.
Because of the conflict and the recurrence of natural disasters, most rural communities in Afghanistan are still very vulnerable and will continue to require humanitarian assistance for years to come. Mission East therefore, intends to continue providing much needed humanitarian and development assistance to these communities, meeting their basic immediate needs and helping them to become more self-reliant.