In war-torn Afghanistan, families and communities face difficult challenges as they seek to care for and protect their children. These challenges include displacement and separation of families, damage to infrastructure and homes, lack of basic necessities and continued insecurity. In these tumultuous times, Afghanistan's children are at risk.
Mumlakat, 40 years old and the mother of five children, is from Bai Malasi, a dusty village in northeastern Afghanistan where her family has lived for generations. Her husband, Mohammed, has a vision impairment and is not able to support his family. Mumlakat owns two cows and makes tapi (fuel for cooking and heating) from animal dung to sell at the local market.
The family lives in a house made of compressed, dried mud and shares the dwelling with other relatives. Everyone sleeps on the floor, which is especially uncomfortable in the winter and the height of summer.
“My biggest worry in raising my children is not having enough money to help them when they get sick,” she says. Her youngest daughter, Farkhundah, is 18 months old. She is skinny and often suffers from fever, vomiting and diarrhea.
“I think she is ill because of the lack of nutritious food and clean water,” says Mumlakat. Villagers rely on a communal faucet, which ChildFund helped install, and the river for drinking water, as well as to wash vegetables and clothes and to bathe. Easy access to clean water remains a critical issue for the village.
“I try my best to feed Farkhundah and her brothers and sisters daily. I can't often afford meat and vegetables, but I give rice, soup and bread when I can. I know it's not enough.”
When her children are ill, she takes them to the village of Qara quozy. A donkey ride away, Qara quozy is the only village with a health clinic in the area. But facilities are poor, medicines are often unavailable and no mechanisms are in place to monitor Mumlakat's children's weight and growth.
Mumlakat gave birth to all her children at home, assisted by a local daia (midwife). Three died at birth, and five survived. Mumlakat recalls: “When I gave birth to Farkhundah, the daia helped me into the right position and stayed near the door to keep away evil spirits. But I bled a lot during the delivery. I felt weak and dizzy. I think I didn't eat enough during my pregnancy.”
The period from birth to five years is the most critical development time in a child's life. ChildFund is providing training to local community workers so that they can detect and treat child illnesses.
“Local community workers visit our village and provide us with information and training about health and hygiene. I have learned the importance of washing my hands before touching food. I have also learned about boiling water before using it for cooking. My children's health is improving,” says Mumlakat. “My hope is that Farkhundah and her brothers and sisters grow up strong and healthy. I want them to go to school, get an education and be of good service to the community. I know ChildFund will help."
Mumlakat says she has already benefitted from a literacy course conducted by ChildFund. She now serves on the Child Well Being Committee, which ChildFund helped community members establish. Farkhunda's older sister has completed a tailoring course through ChildFund's skills training initiative.
Since starting work in Afghanistan in 2001, ChildFund's programs in health, education, water, sanitation and livelihood have provided nearly 300,000 children and their families with the support they need to take greater control of their lives and their future.
Specifically, ChildFund has trained parents, community leaders and government staff to recognize and manage child-protection issues, supported community-based literacy classes for children, trained teachers, provided children with recreational areas in which to play and developed health services, including training health workers to treat illnesses.