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PI Officer - Afghanistan
After working for two years in Rome headquarters as Private Partnership Communications Manager, Silke recently transferred to Kabul, Afghanistan.
A photo of a daring manoeuvre by a truck driver in Afghanistan recently became the most popular item ever posted by WFP on Facebook. Spokesperson Silke Buhr spoke to the man behind the camera and the man behind the wheel. See the post
KABUL— His jet-black beard and fierce steel-grey eyes can’t hide Hukomat Khan’s baffled bemusement as I explain to him that some 3,000 people on Facebook thought the photo he’d taken was really cool.
“This kind of situation is normal for us,” he keeps saying. “We drive in much, much worse places than this. There was hardly any snow on the road.”
He grabs the print-out of the photo to explain exactly how a large food truck can make a 180-degree turn in a three-metre-wide space with a drop of several hundred metres on either side.
No room for error
They’d spent four hours clearing the snow and shovelling dry dirt onto the road to dry up the mud enough for the trucks to pass.
More than 80,000 people saw this picture of driver Sher Ali backing his truck to the edge of a sheer mountain drop when it was posted on Facebook. "This kind of situation is normal for us," said convoy leader Hukomat Khan, who took the picture. See the post
Convoy leader Hukomat Khan assigned Sher Ali – his best driver – to the last position in the convoy. The other 16 trucks had manoeuvred around the bend before him, turning the road into a churned up mess of mud and snow.
“I was trying not to look at the drop,” Sher Ali admits. “Hukomat was indicating that I should come, come, come… but I had to stick my head out of the window and see for myself!” That’s when Hukomat took the photo.
Even though he reckons he’s had tougher drives, Sher Ali is pleased with all the enthusiasm that WFP’s Facebook fans have shown for the photo.
“It gives me energy. You know, commercial truckers are often unwilling to go on these kinds of roads. But I am using my skills and knowledge to help my people – that makes me willing to try the impossible.”
A tough life
Hukomat has been a convoy leader with WFP for seven years. Before then, he’d been a driver for 13. He’s seen it all in his 20 years behind the wheel: sudden snowstorms, collapsing bridges, crumbling roads and attacks on convoys.
He recalls one mission where it took his fellow drivers and him more than 13 hours to get nine trucks across a snowy mountain.
I ask him what he and the other drivers do to relax after such a stressful mission – do they sit and talk? Listen to the radio? Call their families?
“If I work from 1pm till 2am, I can’t even smile anymore. I just fall asleep.” He’s not complaining, but it’s a tough life. “I was 13 years old when I started to drive,” Hukomat explains.
“I loved trucks but my legs were too short to drive one, so I learned in my uncle’s van. There wasn’t much fun in Afghanistan during all the years of war, but through driving I found joy and an income.”