Winter comes early in Badakhshan, the most north-eastern province of Afghanistan, dominated by the Pamir mountain range. For most of the year – from November until June – 11 of the province’s 28 districts are inaccessible, and people who live in remote, isolated villages struggle to get by.
When the first snow fell in Shukai district, way up on the northern border with Tajikistan, on 22 October, a convoy of WFP trucks was just returning from a mission to deliver high-energy biscuits (HEBs) for 4,000 young children in the area. The 16 trucks, heading back to the WFP base in the provincial capital, Faizabad, became stuck on the unpaved mountain road as the snow fell. “The road conditions were so bad, it took us two days to move ten kilometres,” recalls Mir Mohammad Wali, the convoy leader. “We had to clear away the snow and shovel soil onto the road to move forward at all.”
The cargo of HEBs was part of WFP’s winter food distributions, which aims to reach 125,000 people in Badakhshan to help them through of the harshest winter months. It is vital assistance in one of the areas of Afghanistan where hunger and malnutrition are most widespread, with more than 80% of the population classified as food insecure.
WFP started dispatching food to the area in September, and aims to complete distributions by mid-November. The local office in Faizabad even borrowed an extra ten trucks from another WFP office in order to expedite the deliveries. WFP also has two front loader vehicles stationed in Faizabad, which can be used to clear snow from roads in emergencies.
WFP is planning to distribute some 10,000 metric tonnes of food throughout Afghanistan this winter.