Afghanistan Once Again – Part One

Afghanistan Once Again – Part One

Afghanistan Once Again – Part One 150 150 ComfortAid International

Visiting Afghanistan is always a challenge; security jitters,
uncertainties about almost everything, inordinate security checks, senseless
laws, rural and remote areas horrendous logistics, and the weather can and does
play havoc on visitors, especially NGO’s like CAI. Even more frustrating, to
me, is the protocol of pretense so prevalent in Afghan culture; why, what a
waste of time! We have very limited time, what with average of a flight a day
to remote location in seven days we are in Afghanistan. Several people seek my
attention, showing up with requests for funding various projects, almost all
water related. They come, we get up, say sallam, kiss, kiss, cheek to cheek,
sit down, polite inquiry about health, family and everything else under the
sky, to each visitor; this is repeated when they depart; makes me want to tear
my remaining hair out. This trip, my twenty-fourth to Afghanistan, is no
exception. My good friend and mentor Aliakber Ratansi from Mumbai and Muslim
Faisal of Dubai accompany me on this trip.
Who would have thought CAI donors could accomplish so much in
seven years, maasha’Allah! The projects completed so far are not short of
miracles from Allah (S). Fourteen schools, three very remote medical clinics,
two orphanages, water wells or water distribution projects that satisfy needs
of over one hundred thousand destitute people, food aid to thousands, life
saving winter blankets and heating coals to several thousands, medical
assistance for life / death cases and education to the deserving are some areas
CAI donors have stepped in and opened their hearts and pockets. These projects
would have taxed the most efficient of any NGO in any ‘normal’ country. But
with Afghanistan, under limitations stated above, these accomplishments are
extraordinarily sensational.  Again, maasha’Allah, all praise belongs to
Allah (S).

A prerequisite of anybody wanting to accompany me is a promise of a Blog that captures ones stay in this wretched country, so that you, the reader, do not have to read my repeated jaundiced perspective. Muslim has done the honors this time around, clicking away as if his life depended on capturing as many moments as possible on his cellphone camera; you can read his Blog below, view photos here.
My
Afghan Escapade
This is my first
trip with Comfort Aid International and my first blog entry. We arrive in Kabul
a little after noon and are met by Engineer Basheer who accompanies us to the
residence of our host Engineer Wasi. We spend the night here and prepare for
adventures to follow next morning. We are up for salaat at an unholy hour of
3:30AM, breakfast and off to the airport. We fly in a Kodiak six seat aircraft
contracted by CAI to the small Nili ‘airport’ – if you can call it that. This
is our gateway into Daikundi province. Once out, we pass Nili downtown
(bazaar), make some purchases and start for the s site to CAI’s 13th sschool. We approach
a huge number of people crowded on the bumpy road; Dr Asif announces that they
are here to receive us. We are greeted with kisses, hugs and flowers
(unfortunately plastic ones) and loud chants. What initially seems like a crowd
of people turns out to be a well-planned reception with a person leading chants over a loud speaker and the
children responding in sync – ‘Salle ala Muhammad, Khushamdeed, Dar Manteqae
Mahroom (Bless Muhammad, welcome to the underprivileged state). 
We climb to the
construction site to see the progress with the six-class room building. The
walls are all done but it has no roof as yet. While Uncle Ali Akbar checks on
the accuracy of construction Yusufali discusses water supply for the toilets
that are yet to be constructed. A solution is not found but the responsibility
is laid on the people of Nili, led by another Haji Ali Akbar to supply water to
the site as initially agreed. In the meanwhile, students get together on the
roof of a nearby Hussainiya. We join them and a program of around an hour is
initiated with the recitation of the Holy Quran, followed by a poem in Dari, a
welcome lecture by a student. Ustaad Faheem (an old resident teacher) then
addresses the crowd, followed by short lecture by Engineer Basheer Ahmed Rizai,
our Engineer. 
A drizzle leads
to change in the climate of the day and we decide to pray inside the Hussainiya
rather than above it. People start praying Furada but some got together and
pray with us behind Yusufali. We are served some rice with meat and beans. Mirinda
cans are distributed and ‘chai’ follows. Over lunch we learn that there are
grave misunderstandings between factions of the village and groups never sit
with each other – many of them carry weapons when meeting people of the other
faction. With this school the groups have come together and insha’Allah, with
the help of Allah SWT, these differences will be foregone and a more united and
progressive community will be prepared for the next generation of
better-educated villagers. 
On the way to
the school Yusufali mentions children here have lovely rosy cheeks that cut and
bleed in biting freezing winter winds. On our way out, saying goodbyes, I
notice a child standing by the tree wearing bright blue shalwar kameez – I
think his name is Gul Ahmed – As Yusufali is exchanging greetings with him, I
noticed the cuts on his rosy cheeks; wonder if they were bleeding the night
before ☹?
Off we go to the
next project. We have three and a half hours of Wadi Bashing with Sher Hussain,
the astute driver that leads us through horrendous, dangerous lanes of springs,
villages and beautiful valleys. We end the journey at the Imam Sajjad (A) clinic in Dairooz. CAI began
operation of this clinic a year ago in a leased mud-house.
Since the doctor
has moved to Sachek clinic around a month ago, nurse Ibrahim manages this
clinic. He sees around 60 patients a day in the OPD – registers of each
diagnosis is maintained and medicine dispensed also noted. Yusufali is wary
about a nurse dispensing medicines, insists a doctor be found at the earliest.
Dr. Asif (CAI co-ordinator for the three clinics) is asked to find a medical
doctor by June or personally move here ☺.
Some thirty
village elders come to greet us and request CAI construct a clinic of its own.
Yusufali meets them cordially but makes no commitments. He insists this clinic
is still not operating to its full potential; the clinic is new and a doctor
needs to be found. After a few years of successful operation CAI may consider
this request. An appeal is also made for a masjid nearby, but again Yusufali is
unable to help.
Another 3:30
morning and we are on our way back to Nili for another 2 projects – sheep distribution
to widows and a mass marriage program. On our way we notice many children
walking to school on these narrow stony roads that have a mountain on one side
and a valley on the other – no barriers whatsoever. I cannot help wonder what
it would be like if I was living here. My sons Muhammad and Hassan would run to
school everyday or do home schooling? But there is no Internet access here – no
starfall, YouTube or games. Electricity is dependent on generators, so most
probably they would go to school. Then I notice a child step back giving our
vehicle way; nothing happens and he is safe. But I wonder what would happen if
one of my sons fell into the ravine, how would I even find out about the
incident? I try to busy myself by photographing the scenery but with slightly
moist eyes. 
We reach the
site and realize the governor of Daikundi province Qurban Ali Uruzgani is also
attending the function. But since the marriages are yet to begin and widows
waiting, we decide to distribute first. 127 sheep lay before us, including the
48 ewes that were born after the sheep were purchased. Another 4 sheep are
still pregnant and will deliver anytime. The names of the widows are called and
they are given control of their gift as pre-decided by the CAI team. It is a struggle
for the ladies to start the journey against the will of the animals who are
happy in the safety of numbers.
The governor is
already at the marriage function and is giving a speech when we enter through
security and straight to VIP seats at the front. Engineer Bashir then speaks on
behalf of CAI, followed by Khanum Razaei – minister of Women’s affairs (also
the host of this program), Justice Minister, Chief of Education, Minister of
Finance and a groom and the father of a bride. We are then escorted into the
governmental building for lunch with the governor and other VIP. Through Bashir
Yusufali conveys a special thanks to the governor for the help he provided for
water supply to another clinic in Uzmuk. Kind words are exchanged, general
discussions continue over lunch. We request Khanum Razaei to allow us place to
offer salaat and then we are off to Uzmuk for our last leg in the province of
Daikundi. 
We arrive by Asr
to find a queue of patients waiting their turn. Apparently Dr. Sardar here sees
around a 100 patients on average. I go into the OPD room to understand what is
happening and witness a patient who has travelled five hours to reach here. Dr
tests her for anaemia which she is not so requests her to travel another hour
to the Nili DH (a government hospital in Nili) for further tests and a firm
diagnosis – he guesses that she might have a heart condition. Another patient
is having heartburn and a third is complaining of vaginal discharge and pain in
the abdomen. An ultrasound is carried out to learn she is suffering from Pelvic
Inflammatory Disease – which is one of the common issues with ladies
here. 
Basheer comes
calling for me. When I step out into the veranda I see over fifty people
crowded around Yusufali. They come with the request of building a school in the
village and a dam. We learn that a school is semi-finished and already in use
for boys classes. They request they would like to have the girls study
separately. Yusufali insists they should suffice with this building and educate
both genders in shifts. He offers to help finish the structure if the current
contractor defaults. I quickly visit the school that is a ten-minute climb from
the clinic; the classes are running; by the time I finish taking photographs,
students request for a sports facility. I carry this request letter back to
Yusufali, knowing the fate all too well…
We are about to
sit for tea when Dr. Sardar sends for me. He is doing ultrasound of a
7-year-old child. In the bladder is a 14mm size stone(s) that seem to have come
from his kidney. His father informs us that the child is constantly wailing
with pain that does not subside easily. I come back and report to Yusufali who
calls for the child and his parents. He relates his own experience with kidney stones and tells the
father he understands how intense the pain feels; consoles the child and after
consulting Dr. Sardar, has the child taken to Nili or Kabul for further
treatment at CAI expense. 
We sit for
inevitable tea and discuss various CAI procedures and policy; Yusufali stresses
the importance of disease prevention than treatment, advising the doctor to
educate villagers, especially mothers, the importance of this golden rule.
To be continued…

1 Comment
  • Mashalla Jazakh allah khair Yusufali and everyone that is part of CAI. I hope allah (swt) gives long and healthy life to Yusufali and may allah (swt) through CAI help a lot more needy and deserving people of the world.

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