By Mathew Schraeder
I cannot believe that I am already approaching the end of my first week in Afghanistan! For those that know it, Afghanistan is a jewel, a pleasure and an absolute joy to experience.
Sadly my trip here is not a sight-seeing mission. There are floods up in the north of the country which have affected over 27,000 people. Livelihoods have been lost, houses destroyed and access to safe water and health care has been compromised due to the floodwaters.
It all started back in May with heavy rains as spring bloomed. Now with temperatures on the rise the snowpack high in the Hindu Kush mountain range is beginning to melt. It is expected to get worse in the coming weeks.
Getting to the office on Monday 11 June I was warmly greeted by many familiar faces I recognised from my last visit. I was also greeted by two earthquakes which shook our office building enough to send us fleeing outside in to the protection of the open air should the worst have had happened. Luckily for us the tremors only lasted a few seconds. However, 174 kms north of Kabul in Baghlan province there were many who were less fortunate. To date official figures have indicated at least 71 people died and the figure is expected to rise.
Afghanistan is a country that knows death and destruction all too well.
In discussions with the Afghan Red Crescent around the floods response operation we are ready to go ahead and start with the distribution of non-food items – tents, tarpaulins and hygiene kits for those most severely affected. The people of Sar-e-Pol (the flood affected province) have been able to find some immediate solutions to help themselves. The Afghan Red Crescent has mobilised some teams to the area to conduct a more detailed needs assessment and start planning the distribution.
We will hopefully go up to Sar-e-Pol on a visit next week to see first hand the destruction and current circumstances of the local population. We want to move quickly, but Afghanistan is a complex country with many influencing factors. We must take a measured approach to all of our actions. Working emergencies in Afghanistan is like running in hip deep water; you get there, but just not as quickly as you want, or feel you need to.