Hunted by Hunger

Gulbibi, 20, is deep in thought as she gently rocks a cradle inside of the small tent she now calls home. Almost three months ago she and her family of five were forced to leave their home province due to hunger and drought. A strong wind slams against the patchwork fabric of their shelter. “It was difficult to sleep during the night…” she says, looking into the cradle at her youngest girl, Nasima, one-and-a-half.  

Gulbibi’s family recently journeyed from Badghis province to Herat city, Afghanistan, home to 51,000 primarily drought-induced internally displaced people (IDPs). Families live on the outskirts of the city in makeshift shelters, unequipped for temperatures which can exceed 40 degrees Celsius. 

Nasima was on the verge of death when Gulbibi, in an act of desperation, took her to the World Vision mobile health clinic. The little girl looked pale, in turns restless and lethargic, and suffered from malnutrition. At the mobile clinic she was given Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF). Over the course of the next month, Nasima’s weight steadily increased, a welcome relief for Gulbibi and her husband. 

Nasima holds her Ready to Use Therapeutic Food that she received from a World Vision Mobile Health Team. 

Back in Badghis 

Life used to be good in Badghis. Gulbibi’s husband, Mohammad Amin, cultivated sesame, cumin, wheat and peas and was allowed to keep half of the output, whether money or crops.  

But insufficient rainfall along with lack of snow pack destroyed Mohammad’s winter harvest and spring planting, forcing the family him to move to Herat. The family also lost cows and sheep who died from a lack of food and water. 

According to a World Vision assessment in 2018, up to 70 per cent of livestock in areas of Badghis Province have died or been sold off due to lack of food. The same report also revealed that many wells have gone dry or severely depleted, and that people have already been eating their seed stock. By the time they left, Gulbibi’s family had no reserves for next season. 

Here in Herat 

Life in Herat has been a struggle. In the city, Mohammad Amin is lucky if he earns $2 a day as a labourer on a construction site. The poor income has led to a poor diet. “Since I didn’t eat enough, or well, my breast milk reduced, and we couldn’t find a way to feed Nasima nutritional foods.” 

According to Jim Alexander, World Vision Afghanistan Country Director, “Malnutrition rates are higher than have been seen in decades. The time to act is now if we are to reduce the need for ongoing cyclical emergency response to current and increasing numbers of displaced families.” 

Considering the poor health, hygiene and nutrition status of IDP families, World Vision established two mobile health teams to provide primary health care services for this group. The World Vision Mobile Health team visits the areas once a week and provides basic health services including growth monitoring and free medicine for families. 

Gulbibi’s face shows the strain and resilience of a very difficult last few months.

Support for Raw Hope and World Vision’s work involves disaster response but is so much more. We work directly in the hardest hit areas, mitigating conditions before they lead to displacement. In Badghis, where Gulbibi’s family fled from, World Vision is not only providing emergency food distribution for affected families, but also working on long term solutions such as water networks in remote and inaccessible areas.  

As Gulbibi faces another day where the wind will whip her tent, her perseverance to create a better world for her two children is an example of hope in the most challenging of contexts. As a Raw Hope supporter, we thank you for partnering with us to help heal the wounds of drought affected families in Afghanistan.