Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Life in Caves of Bamyan!

Bamyan province is one of the largest provinces in Hazarajat region of Afghanistan. It is located in centre of the country and majority of people are Hazaras. According to government officials, throughout the country, twenty million people are living under poverty line, from which 40% make a home in Bamyan. Poverty is increasing in this province. People are simply in shortage of food, shelter and warm clothes. In the 3,000 caves at side of Buddha statue, about 300 families are still living with out water, electricity and medication. Seeing these caves, one may hardly think living of any human there, but families are still surviving there. Bamyan province has no infrastructure of electricity, gas and water supplies. Like other provinces, life depends on agriculture, animals and children’s income. Children, like in other parts of the country, are the money makers in Bamyan. Boys collect grass to feed livestock and girls do washing, ironing and cleaning to boost incomes. The need to support widows and orphan children remains as the province still lacks significant investment on roads, water and schooling. According to Mohamad Reza, chief of education in Bamyan, from 303 schools in Bamyan only 81 of them have walls, and classrooms to simply run a class. Students are attending classes with out required stationery. They sell the nutrition biscuits distributed by WFP at schools to buy pen and notebooks. Most talented students leave schools and join agriculture, casual work, and even gang of smugglers. The human rights office is concern about future of these children, especially those who join gangs  and become victims of sexual abuse. Overall, people are not happy about government. They believe due to their ethnicity, not much attention is given to Bamyan province. They simply believe that trading millions between government and NATO has no positive impact on their lives. They were/are suffering from poverty and simply can't feed their children.
However, Dr Habiba Sarabi, the Bamyan Governor, stated that its not the issue of ethnicity, but it is the geographical location, cold weather and roadblock in Bamyan that impact on Bamyan's economy.
Marzia is one of Bamyan's residents. She has seven children and her husband is mentally sick. Marzia is renting her cousin’s house for 500Afghani ($10), but she has not paid the rent for the last 6 years. Marzia’s monthly income is 1500Afghani ($30) through her husband’s pension, but she says, ' it is not enough to run a family of nine and treat my husband too'. Marzia’s intension was to marry her younger daughter in exchange for 12000 Afghanis ($240) but her older son did not allow her. Instead, he stopped going to school and is now working in a TV workshop and earns $4 a week. During Mujahidin regime, Marzia’s house was attacked by Mujahidin and one of her sons was killed and her three fingers were cut off. Marzia thinks her life is better in comparison to other families; at least she has bread and sometimes potato to feed the children. However, it is always hard to even find those in winter. This is life far away from Kabul, the capital which seems to have all attention and life entertainments. People are still living in poverty even worse than what has been explained. Government officials are working with United Nation on programs to eliminate poverty, but people in Bamyan beleives they are behind walls and  stones in caves and its hard to be seen and heard! Read it on 'FPB' too.

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