Posted By: Erica
When I met Nazir and Amin they were doing much better – they had received assistance from ACAP (the US funded program that supports war victims) that allowed them to run their own family grocery businesses. Although they were satisfied with the assistance and their current situation, I could not help worrying about the effectiveness of such aid so many years after the initial incident. Nazir and Amin did not receive assistance until seven years after their family members died at Tora Bora. That’s because the program didn’t exist when they were first harmed. Now aid gets to families quickly, but back then, they were left with nothing for too long. So, even if it was the right thing to do, I wondered if all these years later the assistance was too little, too late?
I spoke to someone involved in writing the soon-to-be-published Afghanistan Social Protection Strategy (it’s a big, comprehensive plan to coordinate aid for the whole country and particularly the vulnerable populations like war victims) about what happens when families suffer such losses. Do things go back to normal for these families after a certain period of time, and if so for how long? On the contrary, he said, war victims and their families are consistently one of the most vulnerable sub-groups within the Afghan population. They are among the poorest, and most critically in need of medical and job assistance. This is as true for those who have suffered recent losses as for those who were victims of conflict years before.
This got me thinking about families like Nazir and Amin’s. In an environment like Afghanistan, where resources are already scarce and social nets are slim to non-existent, incidents like these can throw a family into a cycle of poverty and dependency. Families may not have the means to pick themselves up if they lose a breadwinner, if they have to bear additional medical or funeral expenses, or if they suffer property damage they cannot afford to replace. Breadwinners like Nazir may find themselves with fewer financial resources and more family members to support. The situation is even worse when a head of the family is lost. In conservative societies in Afghanistan where women have few options for work, widows often have little alternative than to depend on the charity of already strapped family members.
When families’ lives are shattered by conflict, it becomes a long-term problem, not only for the families themselves but for their larger communities. And while immediate aid is critical, there is no expiration date on when these families need help.