American Forces Press Service
Feb. 19, 2008 - Harsh winter weather, coupled with rising food and fuel prices, has created a burgeoning humanitarian crisis in some areas of Herat province, in western Afghanistan near the Iran border. Village elders from Ala Udin, Jamali and Amma Sakina in Herat province sought help from the Afghan government to ease the suffering of villagers and avoid disaster in their villages.
The commander of the Afghan National Army's 207th Kandak met with the village elders, who presented him with a list of 327 families who were on the brink of starvation and needed immediate assistance. Other families in the area, also suffering from harsh weather and economic conditions, already had provided as much assistance as they could, the elders said. With more Afghan families repatriating from Iran, elders sought to avoid a more severe humanitarian crisis.
Afghan and coalition soldiers gathered hundreds of pounds of supplies to provide immediate assistance to the families in need. Supplies included rice, beans, sugar, rubber children's boots, blankets and warm clothing. Since there were several infants in the villages, Afghan soldiers also brought baby formula and bottles.
"The area of Haji Abbas has a large Hazaran refugee population," explained a coalition soldier. "They are having a very hard time during this long, cold season. Food and fuel prices have risen to an all-time high, and the villagers are poor refugees who are unable to pay the increased prices."
When the team arrived, the elders were surprised by the amount of the supplies. The elders quickly gathered several men from the village to assist the soldiers, unloading the truck and setting up the distribution area.
Other soldiers prepared a makeshift medical clinic with one area to treat men and another to treat women and children. While the initial response was slow, word quickly spread that Afghan forces were there to help. As a result, nearly 200 villagers soon arrived to receive medical check-ups or humanitarian supplies.
Young mothers who arrived with infants got a special package of baby items, including infant formula, vitamins, and nutritional supplements. A female coalition medic examined the young mothers and determined that many were malnourished due to the severe conditions.
"The elders were very thankful to the ANA soldiers for bringing the aid so quickly," a coalition soldier said. "Even though some of the villagers had reservations in the beginning, that quickly turned into many smiles and waves from both children and adults."
The Afghan commander said his unit was happy to help. "We have a strong commitment to the people and a strong desire to provide better conditions for the people of Afghanistan," he said. "This mission showed the villagers of Herat that while the ANA focuses on maintaining peace, security and stability in the area, they also care enough to help the people in their time of need."
(From a Combined Joint Task Force 82 news release.)