Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Getting Food to Kabul's Masses ; Finding Enough Food to Feed Afghanistan's Deprived People Is Tough Enough. but There's Corruption, Too

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Getting Food to Kabul's Masses ; Finding Enough Food to Feed Afghanistan's Deprived People Is Tough Enough. but There's Corruption, Too

Article excerpt

Mohammed Yusef once was a farmer. And Nazir Ahmad was a tailor. But today, they have one thing in common. They have been reduced to waiting in the courtyard of a war-tattered high school for eight hours hoping to get a 50-kilogram portion of wheat to help their families through the winter.

Though they clasp little green cards marked "World Food Program" that gave them hope they wouldn't go home empty handed, it looked unlikely that all of the people lined up on the last day of the WFP's emergency food distribution for Kabul would get their share.

By 3 p.m., the bags of wheat had run out, and mild-mannered men grew agitated with a defeated anger that comes from hunger - and the fear of going home unable to put bread on the table.

"Right now, we're fed up, and no one is giving us anything!" cried Mr. Yusef, a man with a wavy silver beard, commanding eyebrows, and an otherwise grandfatherly demeanor, after an announcement over the loudspeaker suggested that the distribution was over for today and that people should go home.

This emergency operation was meant to reach about 200,000 of Kabul's neediest families, many of them internally displaced people and refugees who fled the fighting of recent months. Thousands of them are making their way back to the capital in search of food and shelter. And while the population of Kabul is expected to swell as the winter sets in, people are at far greater risk of not having enough food to survive the season in northern parts of the country, such as Mazar-e Sharif, where recent fighting wreaked destruction and made thousands homeless. Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, meanwhile, remains inaccessible to relief agencies because of the security situation: WFP food warehouses there were looted, possibly by Taliban or Al Qaeda forces, but in that region's state of lawlessness no one knows for sure. In western Afghanistan, refugees returning from Iran and other internally displaced people are flocking to a sprawling camp in search of food.

To be sure, the difficulties of distributing food in Afghanistan are many, and aid workers quickly grow exasperated when they see corruption making it harder to do a fair job. An air of hostility swirled around the front yard of the school, each of its windows left in jagged shards from shelling. Afghan government soldiers pushed frustrated people into line here, and gave a kick in the backside to a quarrelsome young man.

Arguments arose when WFP officials began confiscating and destroying cards it said were counterfeited. They had been forged in Pakistan, and were easily recognizable, since aid officials give each family a card with a number on it. Once the number has been checked off the list for this round of wheat, for example, it cannot be used again.

"See this card?" asks Laurent Saillard, a WFP consultant in charge of food distribution, taking away the green cards of a few men and women standing around him. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.