Flexible solutions for families in need
With 30,000 homes damaged in western Afghanistan’s eathquakes, cash assistance from UNICEF helps children and families meet urgent needs as winter approaches
Nazook was a 12-year-old bride when she first came to Ahmad Abad village in Herat, western Afghanistan, leaving behind a nomadic life with her family. Ahmad Abad village is just 30 kilometres from the city but boasts none of the amenities and conveniences of the urban centre.
Nevertheless, Nazook made Ahmad Abad her home, weathering hard times over the years and caring for her 10 children as the seasons changed around her. But she had never experienced an earthquake before.
In October, three massive earthquakes and several aftershocks hit Nazook’s village and left them homeless. Her family now lives in a tent, fearful as temperatures steadily drop and a harsh winter approaches.
About 30,000 houses were damaged or destroyed across Herat. Nearly 1,500 people were killed. While Nazook is grateful that her family escaped without any injuries, she dreads the coming winter as they now struggle to get back on their feet.
With her cash assistance, Nazook plans to buy food and some winter clothes for her children.
Securing their daily bread
Nazook’s tandoor, a clay oven in which she bakes bread for her family, also survived the earthquakes. Every day she bakes 23 flat loaves, which they sometimes eat with yoghurt in the absence of meat and vegetables.
"We cannot afford meat. We cannot grow anything at this time of year, and it is too expensive to go to the city to buy fruits or vegetables," explains Nazook.
She recalls that it has been about two months since they had any fruit or vegetable. They still have some wheat flour, but this will soon run out too.
Fortunately, Nazook just received cash assistance from UNICEF to help her and her family cope in the aftermath of the earthquakes.
She tries to count the money but gives up halfway, handing it to her daughter-in-law, who quickly counts it. "I never went to school," says Nazook.
With her 16,300 Afghani in cash assistance - about $217.00 - Nazook plans to buy food and some winter clothes for the little ones.
A timely lifeline
In partnership with the European Union (EU) Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), UNICEF, through its rapid response mechanism, is providing cash to families like Nazook’s who need food on the table, warm clothes on their backs, or other supplies in the aftermath of this emergency. UNICEF and partners identify villages where homes were totally or partially destroyed, where families lost loved ones, or where people were injured and have no alternative means to provide for their urgent basic needs. Eligible families are verified in consultation with community leaders.
In Nazook’s village, all 48 families are receiving cash support. Across Herat, UNICEF is providing more than 4,200 families with cash assistance to buy food, medicine, fuel, or warm clothes - whatever they might need - to prepare for the coming winter.
"Winter in Herat, as in many other regions of Afghanistan, comes with increasing health and nutrition concerns. Respiratory infections become life threatening to the youngest children, and even more so with many health facilities damaged by the earthquakes," says Siddig Ibrahim, UNICEF's Chief of Field Office in Herat. "Families already struggling to put food on the table have now lost their food reserves and livestock with the rest of their belongings."
"Cash assistance is one of the most efficient ways UNICEF can give children and families the dignity and flexibility to meet their urgent needs."
With her calm resilience and positive spirit, Nazook remains a steady rock for her family.
"We still have some wheat flour," she says, "and for now, we have this cash to keep us going."