In northeastern Afghanistan, a villager from Dega Payan collects his food-for-work rations after helping build a road connecting two remote districts in Badakhshan province. Copyright:WFP/Challiss McDonough
For years, the people of Dega Payan had to travel five hours on foot or by donkey to get to the nearest medical clinic. There was no road leading to their remote village in Badakhshan province, so traveling by car was impossible. Now, thanks to a WFP-sponsored food-for-work project, things are different.
The villagers have built a road connecting Dega Payan to the larger town of Ziraki, where there is a clinic. That five-hour journey has shrunk to half an hour by car.
“Last year, before this road linked the two districts, two pregnant women lost their lives because they couldn’t get to a doctor fast enough,” said Abdul Salam, head of the village council.
Badakhshan is one of Afghanistan's poorest, most food-insecure provinces.
Dega Payan is in Khowakhan district, a remote area of northwestern Badakhshan near the Tajik border, and there are high levels of undernutrition and food insecurity. Because of the high altitude and mountainous terrain, the growing season is extremely short. Agriculture in the districts is dependent on rainfall.
Making the village accessible by road also allows local farmers to get their crops to markets more easily, and allows traders to bring supplies into the village that were not available before.
WFP supported roughly 1.5 million Afghans through food-for-work and food-for-assets activities in 2010.
These projects are aimed at helping communities build or repair their shared infrastructure, such as roads and irrigation systems. This is a particularly critical task in Afghanistan, which has been battered by 30 years of conflict.
Challiss is a Public Information Officer for Eastern, Central and Southern Africa. She is based in Nairobi, after having spent two years with WFP in Afghanistan. Before coming to WFP, she spent nearly a decade as a foreign correspondent covering Africa and the Middle East.