Omar and Shakeb
Photo courtesy of Medair

Thirty-five-year old Omar holds his son Shakeb at one of his regular visits to the nutrition clinic run by MCC's partner, Medair, in Kandahar Province. Their names have been changed for security reasons.

It’s every parent's worst nightmare to be unable to provide for their child.

For 35-year-old Omar, whose last name isn’t being used for security reasons, that nightmare was a reality. His son Shakeb was undernourished and very small for his age because of chronic drought and persistent conflict in their area.

“I wasn’t able to sleep because every night my son was crying the whole night,” Omar explains.

For the last year, Medair, an MCC partner in Afghanistan, along with support from the Government of Canada’s Global Affairs department, has delivered child nutritional supports to children like Shakeb to address the high levels of malnutrition and preventable illnesses in Afghanistan. Maternal nutritional support is also provided.

Omar brought Shakeb to Medair’s mobile clinic every two weeks to receive a progress check-up and enough Plumpy Nut, a high-energy nutritional supplement, for the following two weeks. The difference is remarkable, he says.

“Since he was admitted into this program he is becoming better and my mind is now at ease. I’m very thankful for these services,” Omar says.

A Medair nurse, whose name is not used for security reasons, feeds one-and-a-half-year-old Samina (not her real name) a high-energy nutritional supplement at a Medair clinic in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.Photo courtesy of Medair

According to Jacob Hale, one of MCC’s representatives for Afghanistan, this project addresses different needs in different parts of the country. In Kandahar, where the ongoing conflict is most severe, Medair and MCC are focusing on providing nutritional supports for mothers and babies. 

“Food costs are noticeably higher in Kandahar because of the difficulty in getting food to the markets there. Traders are less likely to want to take the risk to move goods to the area, and when they do, they have to pass through armed opposition group-controlled areas where they are taxed,” Hale explains.

Shakeb is just one of more than 62,000 children screened for malnutrition in rural Kandahar and Kandahar city and nearly 6,500 children admitted into Medair supported treatment centers. In the last year, more than 5,000 were discharged as cured.

Part of the three-year project includes education. More than 26,000 men and women across the country were reached with messaging about good family nutrition, especially for pregnant or nursing mothers, infants and young children. 

On a cold, windy day high on a hillside in Afghanistan's Central Highlands, a group of women intently watch a demonstration on how to plant their new fruit trees.Photo courtesy of Medair

In the Central Highlands area where there is relative peace, but the land is arid and sanitation is a problem, Medair is able to work towards long-term solutions.

Nearly 2,000 women took part in a gardening class where they learned about seed planting, irrigation and management of pests and diseases. MCC and Medair are providing seeds, shovels, fruit trees and watering cans to get them started.

A group of women from a community in Afghanistan’s Central Highlands listen as they are instructed on kitchen garden techniques. Photo courtesy of Medair

This project also addresses sanitation. Through the partnership with Medair, MCC constructed 25 safe water supply systems benefitting more than 3,500 people in rural Central Highland villages and areas of Kandahar city previously without a safe water source. 

Twenty-two household latrines and eight school latrines were constructed in the Central Highlands region, providing improved access to sanitation facilities for 176 people and 300 school children.

MCC’s partnership with Medair, an organization with years of experience in the region, is vital to earning access into Afghan communities.

“Afghanistan is a complex place to work. After decades of war, trust is hard to build. These are places where Medair had already done the challenging work of building relationships and making connections,” Hale says.
 

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