Sitting on the floor in the ruins of her house, Gulzada recalls the last year's events. First her husband - and father of her two children - were killed in the war, then her house was almost destroyed by heavy rains and floods, following a drought that had already left her with little food and income.
“It’s been difficult,” the mother of two preschoolers admits, who lives in Afghanistan’s rural Badghis province. Her far-flung village, a cluster of mud houses caved in between rolling hills, has seen war, drought and floor over the last year. The floods have left many houses crumbling away, sun-dried dirt falling from the bricks, and many walls lying in rubble.
“It’s hard on all of us and the children are depressed,” the 25-year-old says, who is covered in black linen; her children sitting by her side.
Gulzada, who’s never been to school, doesn’t have a job to support her kids. “I depend on my parents and my extended family, but it’s not a long-term solution,” she explains. There are no governmental services in the village, making communities depend entirely on each other.
When World Vision with a fund from Start Network started working in Gulzada’s village, the young widow was quickly chosen to participate in a cash for work programme, alongside training on how to best prepare and reduce the risk of natural disasters such as droughts and floods. But for Gulzada, the programme was more than that: it meant being independent and getting back on her feet.
“World Vision gave me 6,000 Afghani,” she explains; almost $100. “I was able to buy food, but I have also started to work on repairing my house,” she says with a hopeful smile.
Admittedly, it’s been difficult for her to get back on track after her husband’s death, but she’s decided to not give up. “We’ve received help and that’s the first step. I now want to work hard to make a living for my family. It’s not easy, but I know that I can succeed if I’m ready to power through.”
Gulzara was one of 385 community members who received assistance, reaching a total of 2,695 people. Prone to be hit by natural disasters, it was important for World Vision to not only leave cash but help communities in disaster risk reduction, preparing them for even the worst times.
Like Gulzara, Rahmatullah, a 37-year-old wheat and cumin farmer and father of five, was affected by heavy floods and previously drought.
“Most of my harvest got washed away,” he explains from his field outside his village. “When it was time to plant again, I borrowed money to buy seeds,” he admits, at that point unsure if he’d be able to fully repay his loan.
“When I received the 6,000 Afghani, I was able to return the money and also buy more food and seeds,” he says. With his entire income depending on agriculture, the distribution helped him recover after years of natural disasters.
Rahmatullah was selected to be one of the cash recipients by his village’s elders. Having five children and unable to provide for his family, the community decided that he should receive assistance.
But this year, Rahmatullah says, is hopeful. The fields surrounding his village are in full bloom. Crops are growing everywhere and the valley is green, only intercepted by the brown houses of the village and a few dirt roads leading up and down the mountains.
It was the cash distribution that had Rahmatullah stay put. While many people in Badghis left their homes, he decided to stay - and right now, he’s busy again with his work, excited for a plentiful harvest.
“There was a lot of rain and the crops are growing well,” he says. “We’ve also received help. This year is better than the last ones.”
Written by Steph Glinski