People in Need establish humanitarian mission in northern Afghanistan

Logo of the foundation People in Need

By Daniela Lazarova

The non-governmental humanitarian organization People In Need has established a permanent humanitarian mission in Northern Afghanistan. Its workers, who have experience with helping the needy in Chechnya and other parts of the world, turned down various proposals for the Czech Republic to send material aid, issuing a statement in which it said that only financial help and on the spot coordination would prove effective. Josef Pazderka of People in Need explains:

Logo of the foundation People in Need
"This statement was related mainly to the Czech government's offer that the country could send some meat or some commodities directly to Afghanistan . We pointed out that such a delivery would be very expensive and that there would almost certainly be long delays. So what we are doing now is using available funds to assess the situation on the spot and then buy whatever is needed on the local market or the markets in Pakistan, Tajikistan or Uzbekistan . That way food and basic necessities can be delivered as quickly as possible and the whole system is more efficient that organizing deliveries from distant countries. That's one reason, and the other reason is that we feel that in the Czech Republic there is a tendency, when sending aid to foreign countries, to give hand outs from whatever is left over or can be spared. If some meat or other food products are left over we'll say "OK, lets send these to the poor Afghans" but we don't think that's a good attitude. The right attitude for a mature society is to find out what these people need and provide it as quickly and efficiently as possible. "

People in Need now have three Czech coordinators near the town of Fajzabad in north-western Afghanistan and a large network of local employees. The NGO feels that involving the locals in the international aid programme is of crucial importance both in the short and long-term. Josef Pazderka explains what kind of help is involved :

"It begins with food but it goes much further. There are problems with roads that are in desperate need of repair, there is a need for water supplies, medicaments and clothes before the onset of winter. What is also important is getting the locals involved in self-help. NGOs can bring in aid for months but it is important to build a local network of helpers and establish some kind of basic infrastructure which would take it on from there."

What kind of response have you met with from the locals? "They appear very grateful. They try to assist our people as much as possible. Of course it depends on the locality and the circumstances. After the US air strikes every foreigner is viewed with some mistrust, but this mistrust is not very strong in the northern part of Afghanistan and people are quite used to meeting foreigners and to cooperating with them."

For the reasons just explained help for the Afghan people is currently restricted to financial contributions. Both People in Need and the Czech Catholic Charity have set up special bank accounts to which the public has been invited to contribute. If you are listening to us in the Czech Republic and wish to contribute you can find the bank account numbers on Radio Prague's web site.

People in Need : 600102473/0300 CSOB Praha 1, variab symb:123

Cs. Katolicka Charita : 1011017777/5500, var. Sym. 132 -Pakistan, u Raiffeisenbank, Praha 1, Vodickova 38