Hanifa, who is seven months pregnant, receives food and multivitamin tablets. Photo: WFP/Silke Buhr
With their brightly-coloured clothes and facial tattoos, Kuchi women from the traditional nomads of Afghanistan stand out in a sea of burkas. But the nutritional challenges these women face are similar to those of all Afghan women.
KANDAHAR - At a health centre in Kandahar city, a mass of women in burkas wait to receive food from WFP on a sunny day in January. Against the backdrop of faded green, blue and beige burkas, one group of women stands out, dressed in brightly-coloured dresses and shawls. It is a group of kuchis, as the Afghan nomads are called. This particular group of women actually lives in a nearby village, rather than following the seasonal migration routes of their traditional lifestyle, which has been compromised by ongoing conflict and the depletion of natural resources.
The women are waiting to receive food rations for themselves and their children as part of a WFP-supported nutrition project that aims to address malnutrition in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as children under the age of five. It is particularly important to address undernutrition in these groups because a poor diet during these key stages of life can have permanent, detrimental effects on children’s growth and development.
Like many Afghans, Hanifa isn’t sure exactly how old she is, but she knows she’s expecting her fourth child. She’s seven months pregnant, and she’s worried about how to feed her family. “Sometimes we have only bread for our daily meal – there’s nothing to cook. This food will help us for a little while.” Kuchis are traditionally pastoralists who trade livestock, but Hanifa’s family doesn’t have any herds anymore. “My husband sometimes buys sheep to raise and sell, but it’s hard to make money that way.”
Today Hanifa receives a ration of wheat flour, pulses, fortified vegetable oil and iodised salt for the family, as well as multivitamin tablets for herself, to ensure that she and her baby remain strong and healthy.