Zarnigarah’s Story

People with Specific Needs.

A customer (in the burqa)Zarnigarah and her children in her workroom.

Zarnigarah is a 45-year-old widow with the sole responsibility for her five children. She had no place to go when she repatriated from Pakistan in 2014 and has lived in a tent in her sister’s yard in Daag Village, Mehtarlam District in Laghman province since her return.

Zarnigarah’s ten-year-old daughter had typhoid when she was three years old. She was not treated then for lack of money and has several long-term health complications as a result. Her twelve-year-old son had worked as handcart laborer for a little money, but due to COVID-19 there is little work available. Until the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) funded “People with Specific Needs” project found Zarnigarah, the family lived on charity from the villagers.

When WADAN’s project team visited her on May 3, 2020. Zarnigarah said, “Because people know that I am a seamstress, I get many requests for tailoring and have often borrowed my sister’s sewing machine, but my brother-in-law doesn’t approve. If I had a sewing machine of my own, I would be able to earn enough to support us from my work.” The WADAN team was pleased to learn that she had experience in tailoring and introduced her case to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR.)

Zarnigarah received AFN 23,000 in cash on June 2, 2020 to buy a sewing machine. Some of the cash award was designated for COVID-19 prevention supplies including facemasks, gloves, hand sanitizer and soap.

Well before the end of June, Zarnigarah purchased a sewing machine and started tailoring. On a follow-up visit from WADAN she related, “Our economic situation is better now. My son doesn’t have to risk his health for work anymore. I receive tailoring orders from the villagers. Currently I earn enough to provide for the basic needs of my family and take care of my daughter’s health needs, but once the pandemic subsides, I’ll earn even more and will be able to afford to send my children to school.”

Arifa’s Story

Arifa and her children with their chickens and the eggs laid by their own hens

Arifa was a 28-year-old widow when she was displaced from her home in Nakora village in Chapa-Dara district to Daman in Behsud district in Nangarhar province on March 27, 2019 due to armed clashes. She lost her beloved husband, who was killed by a missile while he was working in his field. She fled with her four children. They currently live with her in-laws along with six other displaced relatives’ families. Arifa’s brother-in-law, Aziziullah, is a daily wage laborer. When she first arrived he was the only employed person in the extended family.

Arifa’s seven-year-old daughter Nasreen left school when she left her home. Being a displaced widow with four children placed Arifa in a risky position.

After learning about her situation, WADAN’s “People with Specific Needs” project team recognized Arifa’s eligibility for cash assistance and introduced her case to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR.) With the aim of helping her reach her goal of self-sufficiency, and learning that Arifa had experience in keeping chickens, WADAN proposed cash assistance for a home based poultry enterprise for her. Selling the eggs would provide income for the family and they would have eggs to eat every day. She was happy with the idea and she started to plan ahead for her family making it clear that she would send all of her children to school, when they were old enough.

With the 20,000 AFN Arifa received in cash assistance on June 26, 2019 she started raising poultry. She now earns income for herself and her children and contributes to the extended family’s expenses.

In June 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Azizullah cannot find work or contribute to the family’s daily expenses. It is Arifa who supports the entire family now with her egg money. Nasreen currently studies at home and plans to return to school when the pandemic subsides.

Marzia’s Story

Marzia milks the cow she received in order to sell dairy and earn a livelihood.

Marzia is a widow with four children who live in her brother-in-law’s house in the village of Walayathi in Behsood District. Her hsuband was murdered in 2017, after which Marzia’s children began labor work in the Behsood bazaar. When a WADAN field team member spoke with Marzia, she said, “We have suffered a lot. Instead of going to school, my children went to work to earn food for us. To keep our kitchen running, I ended up selling our household items. We sold our television set, which had been our only source of entertainment.”

In January, Marzia’s family was enrolled in the TUP program. At the end of March, WADAN gave Marzia’s family a dairy cow and this cow helped change their lives. On a field visit in September, Marzia told a staff member, “I learned how to get the most out of the milk this cow produces. I cover most of our expenses from selling dairy products. My children can go to school now.” She added, “I bought a new television set, solar panel, and battery. Now my children need not go to our neighbor’s houses for electricity and entertainment. I am planning to save the money I earn to replace all the items I had to sell.”

Zakia’s Recovery Story

“I am healthy and hopeful for a better life now. My advice to all addicts out there is to seek treatment as soon as possible and never lose hope. If the determination is there, the impossible will become possible one way or another, just as I discovered WADAN’s Drug Treatment Center (DTC)” said Zakia, a 42-year-old widow who was once dependent on illicit drugs.

Zakia was married at the age of seventeen to a boy from Kabul. After five years of marriage she had three children and a happy life until it took a sudden turn for the worse. Her misery started in 2001, the day a missile hit her house in Kabul and her husband along with her two little sons and her nine-month-old daughter were killed. Zakia related, “A strange wind blew, and I fainted when I saw such an awful sight. When I woke, I woke up to see the corpses of my husband and children; I was in a strange and painful state.” Those painful memories kept disturbing her for years, and life was difficult for her.

A woman who used illicit drugs introduced her heroin to relieve her pain. She did not know that heroin would not reduce her pain, but increase it. Over time her relatives and old friends severed their ties and life got worse for her day by day. Eventually, she started begging for money so she can buy drugs for herself. She knew was in a phase of her life that she could neither escape nor continue living that way. She decided to quit heroin, but she had no hope of surviving at all until she found out about WADAN’s Drug Treatment Center for women and got admitted on January 28,2020. She said, “Fortunately, I achieved my goal by successfully spending 45 days under treatment at WADAN’s treatment center.”

Zakia started working as soon as she got discharged. She is working as a chef now, and gets paid enough to be able to cope with her daily expenses.

Initial COVID-19 Discussions at the Village Level

Dr. Najibullah, TUP Health Specialist, talking to a TUP family in Surkhroad, Nangarhar on March 19, 2020

Qamara lives in the remote village of Qala-e-Naw in Surkhroad District with her six children and her husband, Rahim Gul. Rahim Gul raises and sells sugarcane with the help of the children. As a beneficiary of the TUP project, Qamara received a cow with its calf on March 17, 2020; a month later she said, “Our lives are improving; we now sell milk to dairy shops and our neighbors and we can eat better. We can also access healthcare and have been receiving lessons about healthcare and improving our livelihood.  Our children are much healthier.”

COVID-19 is spreading in Afghanistan and with it are myths and quackery for prevention and treatment. In Qamara’s village people started to take antibiotics to prevent COVID-19. Qamara said that her family also intended to start a course of antibiotics, “However, first I contacted the WADAN TUP health staff to discuss this as they taught us not to take medications without a doctor’s prescription. We listened to them and then asked them to inform the community elders about the WHO and Health Ministry’s recommendations.”

A prompt response to this request was taken when Dr. Najibullah, the TUP Health Sector Specialist, met with influential residents of Qala-e-Naw village to inform them about COVID-19 prevention and to reinforce messages about the dangers of taking medicines not prescribed.  Female TUP staff members also met with Qamara’s family to further inform them about COVID-19. Qamara said, “We were advised to use masks and gloves, to wash our hands and keep our houses clean. We learned that if someone feels sick, they should stay home and call a doctor or other local health professionals to report the symptoms. We now understand that transmission of COVD-19 is human-to-human and have learned how to avoid it.”

TUP health and social sector teams taught this community’s leaders about how to practice social distancing; they also learned not to use latex gloves or manufactured masks more than once. They are being taught to make cloth masks and wash them daily and to dry them in the sun and also to use washable fabric gloves.

A Qala-e-Naw community elder spoke to Mullahs and other community elders who then disseminated COVID-19 prevention information to all villagers. He said, “We asked Mullahs and Maliks to spread the information to neighboring villages and they did.

Timely action averted a potential overdose crisis in this community before COVID-19 arrived and has informed residents of several villages about what measures they could take to prevent the spread of the disease.