USAID / WFP
For Afghan families in drought-affected areas, a basket of food in exchange for labor may mean the difference between health and acute malnutrition
27 FEBRUARY 2013 | JAWZJAN, AFGHANISTAN
Abdul Jalil is a master mason in Jawzjan province in the north of Afghanistan but he earns too little to feed his family of 12. Drought, caused by poor rains over the last two seasons, has affected prospects for work in this and 13 other provinces in Afghanistan. Abdul Jalil’s family is one of many that goes to bed hungry.
“I had tea and nan bread,” replies Abdul Jalil, when asked what he’s eaten the whole day. Dinner will be a small serving of spinach and aushak, an Afghan dumpling. Tomorrow’s fare will once again be tea and nan.
It is much the same story for Mohammed Sadeq, an unskilled worker who plies his trade in Shiberghan city barely a few miles away. He is finding it hard to feed his five children. On a good day, he earns about 200 Afs (US$ 4.25) ploughing fields. But last year, there weren’t many good days.
“Last year was difficult,” he says. “We ate less because we didn’t have money.”
The World Food Program (WFP) is changing that. Its Food-for-Work project supports families with a basket of wheat, vegetable oil, pulses and salt in exchange for productive labor. In Shiberghan, the work involves cleaning drainage canals and moving soil out of flood-prone areas.
USAID and other donors pledged nearly US$ 72 million to support WFP’s emergency operation in 14 drought-affected provinces in northern and central Afghanistan. For Abdul Jalil and Mohammed Sadeq’s families, it may mean the difference between malnutrition and health. Nearly 60 per cent of Afghanistan’s children are afflicted by stunting, a condition caused by acute malnutrition that affects growth. But WFP is trying to pre-empt this with a blanket supplementary feeding program for 4,000 children aged between six months and five years in Shiberghan district. It provides vital nutrients and will run till the next harvest.
Last updated: May 15, 2014