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And, yes, I DO take it personally: More perspective on Afghanistan: "Since the Americans came here, nothing is cheap"
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Saturday, May 03, 2008

More perspective on Afghanistan: "Since the Americans came here, nothing is cheap"

i've been posting on various perspectives of kabul and afghanistan... here's another one that captures fairly well the experience of driving around the city of kabul...
Getting around in some parts of central Kabul is like driving inside trenches: two lanes of road between high walls made of modern versions of sandbags referred to by their brand name: "Hesco barriers." They consist of 4-foot-tall wire mesh containers lined with heavy plastic and filled with sand, gravel or dirt, all topped by concertina wire. Other streets have classic sandbag structures, high walls and/or concrete-like barricades. Every dozen yards along the roads are heavily armed guards -- dead serious, with sunglasses, earpieces and legs menacingly spread.

yes, it sounds formidable and it is... on the other hand, there are also some relatively nice, wide streets, lined with homes or shops, certainly not like what you would experience in the u.s., but not like what she is describing above either... for instance, here's a lovely sunset picture i took from the hotel on a hill overlooking kabul where two afghan friends took me to dinner on thursday evening...

Kabul, looking west at sunset,
with buildings of Kabul University
in the foreground

but there is no discounting the reality that many afghans are experiencing...
Hungry Afghans looking for their next meal eye bread scraps piled up like heaps of trash at a Kabul market as a vendor weighs out fistfuls of the stale crusts on a scale. A Pashtun woman waits with an empty plastic sack.

She isn't scavenging — she's paying for leftovers that in better times were sold for feeding to sheep and cows. The woman said her household of 14 people had to give up fresh bread a month ago as the price spiraled out of reach.

Rising global food prices have hit few places as hard as Afghanistan, where the cost of wheat flour has shot up 75 percent in three months, fueling anger against the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai. In the volatile south, officials fear it could boost recruitment for the Taliban insurgency.


The U.N. World Food Program, or WFP, warns that the situation for the poorest in Afghanistan is dire and deaths from malnutrition are likely to increase. Protests have broken out in at least one city.

Even middle-income professionals are struggling.

"People are not dying of starvation, per se, but that's very rare these days. Usually people die from diseases they never should have died from but their bodies are weakened by hunger," he said.

Even before the food crisis, U.N. data showed 54 percent of children under five in Afghanistan are stunted. An estimated 10,400 people die of nutritional deficiencies each year.

In two of the poorest provinces, Ghor and Badghis, communities are buckling under the double impact of the global food crisis and a drought that wiped out 70 percent of last year's crop, said Mary Kate MacIsaac of the aid group World Vision.

here's the quote of the day...
[A] Pashtun woman, who declined to give her name because of her conservative social code [said,] "Since the Americans came here, nothing is cheap."

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