Posted By: Erica
As I mentioned in the last two posts, PRTs (the military outposts across Afghanistan) often have discretionary funds to help them do projects in their surrounding communities. This is particularly true for American PRTs, who tend to be better funded than other NATO countries. Sometimes money isn’t enough though, particularly when it comes to doing sensitive humanitarian work.
I was sitting at home a few nights ago when one of the U.S. Army Sergeants I met briefly on a PRT visit called my mobile. I had briefed him on the US-funded program to help war victims (ACAP), but I quickly realized that he was calling about a very different problem.
“Listen, we just heard about this family. Whole family slaughtered by a rival clan,” he said, “but there’s these three kids that survived. Two were hiding. One was injured but did not die. Is there any way that that program you talked about could help them? We’ve got them under our protection now but we’re not sure what to do with them.”
The ACAP program does not cover such injuries, I told him, since international forces were not the direct or indirect cause. That’s how the legislation was written when the program was created. It was meant specifically to help war victims created by the US and their allies. Other governmental and non-governmental programs could probably though, I suggested. Orphaned children are sadly not a rare phenomenon in Afghanistan and there are many other aid programs here that work with victims of criminal violence. So I gave him their contact information and have also personally been working to get help for these three children.
As I hung up the phone, I was troubled at how disconnected the military units manning these PRTs are from the larger humanitarian structures that impact their strategy and daily work. Here was a group of guys who just wanted to help these kids and were willing to go out of their way to do so – the Sergeant I talked to had even mentioned that one person might be interested in adopting them. Yet if I hadn’t happened to pass through a few days before, would they have had a number to call? They had no background in dealing with trauma victims, or orphaned children. They probably were not sure what sparked the incident or how to go about finding extended relations of the children or other extended kin who, given Afghanistan’s strong family structure, probably would have taken them in.
This is something we’re working to fix at CIVIC.
Especially given the overlap between many of the military aid programs and programs like ACAP that work with civilians, we will work to improve communication between all of these groups. When the goal is helping civilians harmed by conflict, it’s important that everyone get on the same page.