Udo Stolte has just returned from Afghanistan and writes:
“Shelter Now is working at three sites in Afghanistan: Kabul, Faizabad and Herat, I was able to visit all three. First Faizabad: often it’s simply not possible to travel overland because of the dangerous security situation. But this time it was possible! Together with our team leader, Corey, and two local staff members, we drove to two remote villages. Our journey took us on bone-rattling, death-defying “roads” – more like tracks, including at times just river beds – teetering along the edge of deep gorges through breathtaking landscape.
The beauty of the landscape, the friendly people in the villages, the hospitality, the gratitude for successfully completed projects caused me to fall in love with Afghanistan all over again. Despite all the poverty, the chaos and the dangers, there’s a beauty that just captivates you. We’ve long since dubbed this phenomenon the “SARS virus” – referring not to the dangerous virus that spread across many parts of the world a few years ago, but what we call “Severe Afghanistan Return Syndrome”. Most people who visit this country seem to catch it and find they just have to go back.
During this trip I was able to visit 13 projects in all: including drinking water and agricultural projects as well as education and training programmes. What impressed me most was our dental clinic in Herat. Young Afghans who are studying dentistry – both men and women – come here to do their practical training. The clinic works very closely with the university. The head of the faculty there told me that three Afghan government ministers have visited our clinic so far and were deeply impressed. In their opinion it’s the best clinic of its kind in the whole of Afghanistan.
I’m not able to report about the many other projects here. But I do want to mention one thing that I found very unsettling: thousands of people have been flooding into Herat from the neighbouring provinces. The extreme drought this year has driven them from their land. Their numbers have now swelled to over 20,000 families! Together with the UN’s World Food Programme, our staff are handing out money so that they can buy the basic necessities in the city. But with winter fast approaching the question now is: what happens next?
This is where the beautiful picture of Afghanistan breaks down.