Mohammad Rasool is Country Director for Afghanistan at Handicap International. The aid organization is active in 60 countries.
Mr Rasool, anyone who wants to help people in conflict regions needs protection. How is the security situation in Afghanistan?
By and large, the situation has improved since the Taliban came to power. But in some regions and cities such as Kunduz, Kabul or Kandahar there have been repeated attacks recently. Perhaps this is an indication that the number of attacks, especially by fighters of the “Islamic State”, will increase.
What are the consequences for your work?
For us it is very complicated. We live in fear and do not know what to expect. Above all, it is difficult for us to assess how great the threat posed by IS actually is. We definitely try to protect our teams as much as possible.
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We avoid areas in which there is fighting and which are, as it were, contaminated with explosive material. And our teams are specially trained before they enter unknown villages or areas. Even once the acts of war on the battlefields are over, the risk of attacks is great.
Only three days ago there was an explosion in Kabul, injuring several people. And think of the horrific attack on a mosque in mid-October – more than 150 people were killed. Relatives of our employees were also among the dead.
How precarious is the humanitarian situation?
It’s dramatic. Most people do not have enough to eat, they lack all the essentials of life. And they are often traumatized as victims of the conflict. In addition, there is a devastating economic crisis. In the markets you can see many Afghans, especially women and children, who are begging.
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A few days ago I met a woman who was crying because she no longer knew what to do. She used to be a teacher and now she cleans shoes in the bazaar. But that is nowhere near enough to keep her family afloat. Thousands are selling everything they have left, for example their furniture or household appliances. It is also frightening that more and more underage girls are being married off. The need forces the parents to do that.
There is always talk of a hunger crisis. How does it express itself?
This year there was an extreme drought in Afghanistan. There was almost no rain. The farmers could neither till their fields nor harvest anything worth mentioning. Everything was dried up. In addition, there was a war going on. There was always fighting and bombing. This also made it almost impossible for the farmers to sell their meager harvest. All of this has exacerbated the hunger crisis.
Has this also led to farmers leaving their homes and looking for a livelihood elsewhere?
Yes, but that is a development that began a few years ago. The number of internally displaced people has risen sharply since then. This year alone, hundreds of thousands have become refugees in their own country.
Afghanistan is one of the countries most affected by the remains of war such as duds and landmines. How dangerous is everyday life for people?
The country has been littered with explosive remnants of war for decades. The 263 districts affected are extremely contaminated. People cannot even enter many of these areas, it is simply life-threatening. In Afghanistan people are injured or even killed every day by explosives and remains of ammunition.
Between April and September of this year alone, 275 women and 339 men died from explosive ordnance. In the past few years, there were more than 40,000 victims. A seven-year-old recently lost his legs here in Kandahar.
Your organization cares for the victims of such duds and mines. What does the work look like in concrete terms?
Handicap International operates various programs in five Afghan provinces. This includes, for example, providing the victims with prostheses and wheelchairs, offering them rehab and providing them with psychological support. It is also very important that we educate people about the dangers posed by mines and duds. And last but not least, we are committed to ensuring that people with disabilities are integrated into society.