After violence and drought brought the Afghan village of Towhed Abad to its knees, a WFP food-for-work road building project has given people the hope that their lives will improve. Jackie Dent reports.
About forty men are gathered outside the mosque, their eyes squinting from the searing hot sun. They are waiting patiently for their names to be called out to collect their rations of WFP
We’ve had a hard time here but the new road has helped a lot of people
food. Some come with wheelbarrows, in which children have chosen to laze about in.
The village of Towhed Abad is dusty and dry, and lies on the outskirts of Ghazni city in central Afghanistan. Before three decades of war struck Afghanistan, Ghazni was famed for its spectacular citadel, its 1000-year-old minarets and embroidered lambskin jackets worn by rock stars like Janis Joplin.
These days, however, the city has a weariness borne from rising *insecurity in surrounding areas. Battles have erupted between insurgents and international forces in Ander district and kidnappings have taken place in the province such as those of a group of Koreans in July - many of whom were later released.
The local economy and livelihoods of the people of Ghazni have also been devastated by a nationwide drought. Poor rainfall in April and May in 2006 led to one of the worst harvests in years with millions facing a food and water crisis.
Extensive crop loss throughout the country resulted and an WFP assessment found that 1.9 million very poor people needed food assistance.
WFP has received around 110,000 tons from an appeal and much of this food has been distributed to beneficiaries working on food-for-work projects, including the men of Towhed Abad.
The town had a poorly-maintained road that was affecting the ability to get into nearby Ghazni city. With WFP support, 270 men received 16 tons of food rations in return for rebuilding eight kilometres of the road.
Among the crowd outside the mosque is Mohammed Husein, 18, a part time school teacher, who worked six days on the road project, alongside his father and brother.
Road to improvement
“When the road was bad, it was hard for patients to get to the local hospital but now it is much quicker,” he says. “We’ve had a hard time here but the new road has helped a lot of people.”
“The drought has been hard and it is not easy to find a job,” he says. “But the food from WFP helps the people here in our village when times are bad. It also gives us hope that things can improve.”