Resilience and motivation are two things most of us feel like 2020 gave us a crash course in – something Zahra Karimi, a staff member of our member PWS&D’s partner, Community World Service Asia, understands well.
With the support of Foodgrains Bank, the Afghanistan-based partner organisation implemented an emergency humanitarian assistance project, to increase food security for 1,100 vulnerable households in four districts of the mountainous Bamyan province. These families were comprised of internally displaced and returning refugees, with priority given to individuals with disabilities, female-headed households and families most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zahra, who worked on the project as a data management officer, says distributing the first cash installment in the midst of a freezing winter in December 2020 had its fair share of challenges. The team of 21 (11 women, 10 men) often awoke at 6:30am to be on the road by 9am, completing five-hour arduous drives on “rugged and barely existing,” snow-covered roads to reach the families in need – all while being away from their own.
“There were many times during this field visit when our car was stranded due to heavy snowfall, or would stop functioning entirely due to technical faults or the climate being too cold. This caused delay in our work. The distribution sites and their surrounding areas mostly did not have telephone networks and remained out of Wi-Fi ranges. Therefore, since we were trapped in the snow, we were unable to report to other teams or call for help.”
In Bamyan, road blockages due to landslides, heavy snowfall and broken roads are very common, especially in the winter. However, Zahra says the team’s arrival always brought a smile to the faces of the families – and that made the hardship of the journey worthwhile.
“At -25℃, the participant families travelled for hours on foot to reach the distribution sites as the snow hindered travel through vehicles. The dire need of those families for this cash assistance encouraged us to push our limits and deliver the cash to these families at their homes, as well for people who were unable to make it to the distribution sites due to other limitations.
“I remember one participant, a man who had no fingerprint as he had worked all his life on land and fixing grass-pile ropes. His hands had become so stiff and hard that no pattern was left on his fingers to leave a thumbprint while registering as a participant for the project.
“On another occasion, we travelled to deliver the cash grant to a woman who headed her family. She was unable to come as she had just delivered a baby a week before the cash distribution activity. Witnessing the hardships of these people and the extreme need for the assistance, we suddenly did not feel tired or agitated to travel in such extreme weather.”
Photo credit: CWSA