Aiding the starving of Afghanistan - Leanne Clelland

For the past six months I have sat at my desk and worried about Afghanistan. A million children are at risk of starvation and 95 percent of the population don’t have enough to eat. For the avoidance of doubt, my job is not to worry, but to write about the global communities who have been hardest hit by climate change, Covid, conflict and food insecurity. But I do worry - as someone who works for an international non-governmental organisation and fundamentally as a concerned global neighbour.

Leanne Clelland, communications officer, Christian Aid Scotland
Leanne Clelland, communications officer, Christian Aid Scotland

The Afghanistan-born poet, Rumi, wrote “Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.” And we find these treasures repeatedly at Christian Aid. Every gift, no matter what size, turns lives around. Crops are replanted, freshwater ponds are created, innovative ways of storing and preparing food are trialled. Sometimes the need is immense and urgent; sometimes the road to resilience is slow and steady.

But Afghanistan is different. The country lies in ruins. Families are selling the clothes off their backs and the children from their cots to buy food. Barefoot children are starving in the snow, pregnant mothers are giving birth to babies who may not survive. This is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. It has not arrived unexpectedly. Since the Taliban took control six months ago, international sanctions and a severe winter have deepened the crisis.But in the ruins, there is hope. The UN and the international development community have been working behind the scenes for months to ensure that aid gets to those who most need it. In December, the UN Security Council voted to exempt humanitarian aid from the economic sanctions, allowing aid to flow in more freely. And Christian Aid has lobbied the UK Government to bring this exception into UK law. The Scottish Government has also shown generosity to the people of Afghanistan by directing funds, via their Humanitarian Emergency Fund, to Christian Aid, Islamic Relief, Tearfund and the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal. Their willingness to learn about and respond to the complex needs has been heartening.

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Christian Aid has already provided food and hygiene packages to over 17,000 people and we aim to reach many more including displaced people, host communities, and those returning to their homes. Despite the challenges, we are providing people with winter blankets, hygiene kits and essential nutritional packages for children, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

A Christian Aid partner delivers food parcels / Christian Aid

Sharifa lives in Nangarhar province with her husband, and 6 children who are all under 10. Her husband and some of her children had been working in a local brick factory. But since production stopped a few months ago, their sources of income have dried up. Some weeks they have enough money for bread and green tea, some weeks they don’t. Sharifa has received an emergency food package containing flour, rice, cooking oil, pulses, sugar and salt. It is a small solace amid uncertain days.Sharifa says, “We are very scared and worried about our future. I feel completely hopeless. My family have nothing to dream for as the situation is getting worse and more deadly each day. We are worried we won’t survive the winter. We have no warm clothes, jackets or socks or any fuel for heating. In the past it was hard for us but now we are on the edge of destruction.”

Christian Aid – a mighty global movement of people, churches and partners – believes that poverty is an outrage against humanity. But we also believe that in the ruins of Afghanistan, there is hope for a treasure. And we believe that together we can restore hope to the hopeless.

If you are able to support the Afghanistan Crisis Appeal, please consider making a donation today: christianaid.org.uk

Leanne Clelland, communications officer, Christian Aid Scotland

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