Blocked By Snow, WFP Staffer Sees Why Weather Is Challenge In Afghanistan

Published on 23 November 2012

Northern Afghanistan is a tough place to work at the best of times, but it becomes especially difficult during the winter when heavy snows make roads impassable. WFP’s Silke Buhr found that out for herself when a sudden snow storm forced her and her colleagues to turn back while on a road journey to the remote province of Shinghnan.

Our journey started on a bright morning in Faizabad, the capital city of Badakhshan which is one of the poorest provinces in Afghanistan. We were headed to Shinghnan district some 150km to the north-east, where WFP is helping some 700 families survive the long winter months.

As we headed into the mountains, we crossed paths with nomadic shepherds bringing their flocks down from the spectacular summer pastures. As the cold weather sets in, they bring their animals to warmer areas. 

 

Although at the moment these valleys are grey, in the summer they are lush and green, and thousands of sheep, goats and camels are brought even from other provinces to graze here.

We should probably have taken a hint from the shepherds’ hurry to get to lower ground, because the weather started closing in fast. At first the snow was light, and we decided to press on.

 

Even in good weather, these roads can be dangerous. That dark blob is a fuel stain from where a truck carrying WFP food tumbled down the mountainside a few weeks ago. Thankfully the driver was unhurt.

 

The snow soon became heavier and heavier. We encountered a few cars and mini buses struggling to move forward. They warned us that the steeper, higher ground ahead – the Kars Karang pass between the connector road to Shighnan – had become impossible to cross.  

As we stood around discussing our course of action, some boys with donkeys breezed past our land cruisers. Soon, this will be the only way to access villages up here. 

 

The decision was made. This was the end of the road for our mission. We turned around and braced ourselves for another five hours of teeth-rattling driving back to Faizabad.

The enormous challenges posed by the weather in this part of the country became clear to me as I watched driver Amir Mohammad fit snow chains on the vehicle for the long ride home.

The same valley we passed through a few hours before is now completely covered in snow. Many areas here will be cut off until next spring. Thankfully, the trucks carrying food to Shighnan district left before the snow started falling and the distribution went ahead without us. 

 

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about the author

Silke Buhr

Regional Public Information Officer

Public Information Officer for WFP Asia, based in Bangok, after having spent two years with WFP in Afghanistan and four years in Rome working in communications and fundraising.