Helping Afghans Plant Seeds of Hope
|The IRC is helping these farmers revive their orchard near Kabul. (Photo: Peter Bussian/IRC)|
As many Afghan refugees prepare to return home with hopes to rebuild their war-torn country, the IRC is focusing on two of their most critical needs for recovery --agriculture and education -- while continuing emergency assistance and food distribution. Here is a sampling of the assistance the IRC is currently providing.
Schools - An IRC team recently visited 27 government-run primary schools in Kabul to determine structural and supply needs and found that nearly every one was at least 80 percent destroyed. The schools are open, however, and the IRC is distributing school supply kits provided by the American Red Cross and paid for by American school children. The IRC also is implementing a school feeding project for students in Kabul, providing bread baked by women in the community.
Teachers - The IRC has been holding teacher training seminars in Pakistan on issues ranging from teaching science curricula for girls to how to address the psychosocial needs of war-affected children. The workshops are preparing hundreds of mostly female teachers for schools that are opening in Afghanistan in the year ahead.
Science - The IRC recently held "Science Day" events at Pakistani refugee camps to encourage Afghan children, especially girls, to learn science. The events spotlighted students' science projects as well information about the IRC's education programs for girls. Educators at IRC schools hope that through science classes, female students will look to careers in professions such as medicine and engineering.
Health - An IRC health education program for a selected group of women in Afghanistan has drawn keen interest and requests for an expansion of the program. The two-month long program began on March 17 to teach health issues to 110 Afghan women from nine villages in Kabul and two other districts. The participants are taking classes on subjects such as hygiene, sanitation, nutrition, dehydration and diarrheal diseases. Preparations are in progress to begin training a second group of women.
Seeds -The IRC continued vegetable seed and fertilizer distributions to Afghans in Logar, Kabul and Nangarhar Provinces in eastern Afghanistan and in Ghor Province in the west. Seeds are also being provided to displaced families in the northern Mazar region, as part of a food supply program aimed at encouraging the return of the displaced to their communities of origin. The IRC also distributed over 9,000 apple, apricot, peach, and almond tree saplings to farmers since late February.
Irrigation - The IRC is expanding irrigation and agricultural rehabilitation programs in eastern Afghanistan. Staff members conducted surveys of former orchard owners and then followed up with a series of workshops in farm management, crop protection and seedling production for over 100 farmers. The IRC also has been working to restore irrigation systems--employing over 1,000 local workers to clean some 90 underground water channels, called "karizes."