Afghanistan 2001: Food aid for a country on its knees

In October 2001, US and British Forces invaded Afghanistan and deposed the Taliban regime from power. This opened the door for international aid to the severely tested Afghan population, and Mission East started providing food aid that same winter.

By Line Højland, Communications Officer

”Three of Fatima’s children died last winter. Will the three others survive this one?” Ruth Dyer of Mission East asked this question in October 2001 during a visit to war torn Afghanistan. That same month, allied forces had deposed the Taliban regime from power. The conflict had displaced millions of people from their villages, and a humanitarian disaster was looming.

Lost three children

Ryth Dyer met Fatima in a refugee camp in northern Afghanistan in October 2001. Conditions in the camp were unbearable: The families lived in tents made from light bamboo mats and plastic, which offered little protection from the wind. The previous year, Fatima had fled fighting in her home town together with her six children. 12 months after their escape, they still had neither blankets nor clothes and far from sufficient food supplies. Ruth Dyer was visiting the camp to assess the needs before starting a distribution of emergency food aid: “Fatima helplessly watched her three children die last winter,” she wrote.

Life expectancy: 41 years

Fatima and hundreds of others that Ruth Dyer met this autumn had spent 20 years in a country at war. There was a serious lack of clean water and decent roads, and the average life expectancy was 41 years. Based on Ruth Dyer’s report in the autumn of 2001, Mission East carried out a major food distribution. 18,000 beneficiaries received a parcel containing 10 kilos of food every month for three months.

Many lives were saved that winter, but it soon became obvious that new ways of thinking were necessary. A lot of Afghans did not like depending on what they considered charity, and Mission East started handing out food aid in exchange for work towards rebuilding roads and water systems. Seed, fertilizer and agricultural equipment was also distributed to enable the population to grow food for itself. A project involving beehives ensured that women in rural areas could earn a living and feed their families.

The troubles of Afghanistan are not over. Mission East continues to assist the country through a major aid programme that makes lives change for the better, one family at a time.

The original Danish language version of this article was published in a special edition of the Mission East magazine to commemorate the organisation's 25-year Jubilee in November 2016.