In Corona times, this year's spring newsletter is different from what we had planned a short time ago. The schools in the Andkhoi region are closed, in Mazar-e-Sharif and other parts of the country the winter holidays have been extended. Tanja Khorrami and I, therefore, cancelled our planned trip to the north of Afghanistan from 28 March to 10 April 2020. A seminar with German experts and the headmasters of 10 secondary schools on capacity development was also postponed, as was an evaluation of our school construction projects funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) by an independent expert, which was planned for mid-April.
Tanja Khorrami and I would have visited the two schools that have been completed since our last trip: in Aibak a building with 16 classrooms and in Mazar-e-Sharif a school building with 24 rooms, each with a meeting hall and ancillary rooms, toilets, equipped with sturdy furniture, a school laboratory and library. These are measures that our project partners have already implemented in the past in an exemplary manner. We would certainly have visited the schools where smaller buildings are being constructed: Four buildings with two large rooms for a laboratory and library and two buildings with four large rooms each to expand the growing schools. We had hoped to discuss with our students in our education centre and hear from them how their environmental projects are progressing. We were looking forward to the new women's centre in Khancharbagh and to the discussions with our friends in the women's centre in Andkhoi. Now all we can do is to have video conversations with Andkhoi, Mazar-e-Sharif or Kabul. This works quite well, but we also feel well informed about the regular project reports, including the seminars for teacher training and the training for caretakers for the maintenance of the school buildings. We now hope that we will be able to travel in September. You can read more about our activities in our annual report, which we will be happy to send to you after completion.
We try to adjust to the new rules of social distancing and deal with our fears for the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions and the "fight" for goods which are in short supply. From Iran, which was affected by the corona virus at an early stage, and the return journey of many Afghans to their homeland, fear has now also broken out in Afghanistan as you can read in the reports from our colleagues from Afghanistan below. After I had passed on a call for help from Andkhoi to our circle in Germany, I received this answer: Certainly not only I have been saving money for weeks and will do so in the coming weeks or months - no cinema, theatre, concert, eating out, no nice shopping, travelling etc. If many of us donate some of the "saved money" for Andkhoi, a nice sum of money would come together, which our local partners could use in a meaningful way. They already have enough practice. “There is no good unless you do it”. Perhaps you will agree with this after reading the following reports.
Best regards from your Marga Flader
Sayed Asef Sadaat
I hope this mail finds you fine and healthy. Our courses at our education centre in Andkhoi are unfortunately closed due to the Corona crisis. As discussed in our video conference, teachers will now transmit teaching material directly to students via local radio and City Cable TV and WhatsApp groups. Our library is open so that boys and girls can borrow books and continue learning. In small groups of three or four people, lessons may still continue. We hope that the closure will not last any longer.
As you all know, the situation around the world is critical. But in Afghanistan there are very many people living in great poverty and unfortunately the government is not able to provide the necessary support for the citizens. The community therefore faces serious problems. Even more people have now become unemployed. The day labourers can hardly find work. Although they should be in quarantine, many are still on the streets looking for work, because what are they supposed to live on? Here in Andkhoi it is particularly bad, as the people are already struggling with displacement and insecurity. There are no tests to detect an infection. People have only just heard about the issue and feel very insecure. The Ministry of Health has no plan. A lot of people may already be infected. Because many people have returned to our region from Iran, where the corona virus raged.
As you know, we in Afghanistan live in far greater poverty than the people of Europe. There is no help from our government in such a crisis situation. Instead, the costs in the markets are now twice as high as before the crisis (not only the costs for hygiene products, but also for food). If possible, it would therefore be very good if we could donate food and toiletries to the people in the Andkhoi region.
To be honest, I live in a difficult situation today. Some people who know me a little bit come to me to find help. I know that they suffer a lot from their lives. I have not yet refused help, but my own possibilities are limited; I can only help with 500 to 1000 AFN (6 to 12 EUR). It would be good if we could help the needy directly, as we did with our winter aid in December 2019. I assure you once again that my team and I are able to do this job very well. Every donation, no matter how small, will be appreciated.
In addition to all the unrest and poverty, the corona virus is another catastrophe that is affecting the whole world, including Afghanistan. It is a great concern, particularly for us in Afghanistan, because of the limited possibilities in terms of health care and the problems with the economy. And, more importantly, with regard to education. All educational institutions in Afghanistan are closed because of the Corona crisis. Students have to spend their golden times at home for uncertain length instead of studying in universities, schools or other educational institutions. It is too sad to even think about it. But whether we like it or not, the courses are closed, the students don't come and the staff are mentally in tension. During this time the teachers keep in touch with their students via mobile phone. Some of our visitors continue to come. People are still not taking the Corona crisis seriously. But what should the poor do? They are forced to earn money to feed their families.
Despite all these challenges, we and our team from both the Andkhoi Women's Centre and the Khancharbagh Women's Centre have carried out a Corona awareness programme. We distributed soap, masks and information materials about the corona virus. We should continue these actions.
I greet you and hope that everything is all right with you. As we have always helped the people of Andkhoi in difficult times, we are receiving calls for help this time as well. Many people who live in big cities like Mazar and Kabul and who normally support their extended families in the countryside are now out of work. Therefore, hunger and poverty are another direct threat besides the virus problem. We would like to help those people who live from hand to mouth in normal times and those who have had to leave their homes and live in particularly difficult circumstances with basic foodstuffs such as flour, rice, noodles, oil and tomato puree (worth around 100 USD). Maybe we will find a way to help some poor families??! If you send us a donation, we can arrange the handover in Andkhoi, similar to what we already did in December 2019 (account details see below).
Hamburger Sparkasse, Adolphsplatz, 20355 Hamburg