The view from Kandahar

An Afghan aid worker writes about life in Kandahar, one of Afghanistan’s most insecure provinces. His identity has been kept anonymous for reasons of protection. 

The people of Kandahar have suffered through almost thirty years of violence and devastation. The province was destroyed during the Soviet war, with Soviet forces surrounding Kandahar city and shelling it from all sides. Even after the Soviets left, the conflict carried on between Afghans until the Taliban took over in 1994. 

Today, the fighting still continues. As casualties increase day by day, civilians are the ones suffering and aid workers – the ones trying to help alleviate this suffering – are targeted. But we have no power to stand-up to the men holding the guns.   In the midst of the violence, people here just try to survive. But drought has killed many crops and livestock, which the vast majority of the people depend on.  Many farmers struggle to support their families and have few other means of earning an income. 

Over the past year, most aid agencies have left Kandahar due to the insecurity and only two of Kandahar’s fourteen districts are now considered safe enough be accessed by international aid organizations. Their withdrawal has left many people without the agriculture or livelihoods support they desperately need and denied them access to even the most basic services. 

Schools have been attacked and closed, meaning that children stay home and teachers cannot work.  Where schools are open, it can be dangerous for students – especially girls – to attend.  Just a few months ago, a group of girls walking to school in Kandahar city was attacked with battery acid and badly burned.  The Ministry of Education is now trying to reopen some of the closed schools, but how can parents send their children back to school if they fear for their safety? 

Many hospitals and healthcare centers have also closed.  In three districts alone, threats and attacks have forced 58 clinics to shut down, depriving over 200,000 people of access to basic health services.

In August, there will be presidential and provincial council elections.  But rather than being a time of hope and change, many fear that they will only bring more violence – unless there is adequate security to protect the voters. 

It is impossible to wash away all of this blood with more blood.  The people of Kandahar want to be able to send their children to school without fear, they want their rights protected and they want infrastructure and jobs.  More than anything, the people of Kandahar want peace and security.

Photo gallery: Unheard voices from Afghan women and their children.

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