Afghanistan update March 2023

Whilst the fallout of our success from Operation Ark continued at pace in the British media, our team that remained in Kabul faced a new reality that even today, is still difficult to comprehend.

Your support through Operation Ark enabled us to evacuate our vulnerable staff and their immediate families. They, together with the Nowzad dogs and cats, are now settled and starting new lives in the UK nearly 18 months on. The rest of the team that decided to stay in Afghanistan continued to care for the animals at our donkey sanctuary.     

To us, the events of that terrifying August in 2021 are anything but a distant memory, but to the rest of the world, Afghanistan is now long forgotten.

Every day our Kabul based team checks in with the UK office, sending updates on the animals in their care and their plans for the coming days. To enable the clinic to carry on its vital work it is essential for us to be able to transfer funds to them.  A life that was not the easiest before the fall of Kabul suddenly became even harder as the coalition of western governments left a sting in the tail as they withdrew from Afghanistan.
They froze all of Afghanistan’s banking assets.

The Afghan economy ground to a shocking halt.
Every single innocent Afghan that once had had a dream of a better future suddenly had no access to their hard earned money. We, as a charity, had no way to transfer funding into the country to pay the salaries of our staff, fund the care of the animals or provide vital medical supplies.
We almost had to admit defeat.

But the strength and courage of our team on the ground in Kabul ensured we stayed the course and found a way to support them.

It was not without just a little bit of stress……

In July of last year Pen took the hard decision to head back to Kabul, loaded with vaccines and veterinary essentials which had been a long time coming. It became just one of many trips he has now made over the last 8 months to work alongside the team as we rebuild our operation to deliver on improving animal welfare in Afghanistan.

This included finding a new home after the local Taliban claimed the right to take over the original Nowzad clinic, giving us just a week’s notice to vacate. We were not about to argue with some very heavily armed men.

Hard work and many sleepless nights followed. Whilst the move was swift, the preparation for bringing our new compound up to speed took several months ensuring our facility was finally worthy of bearing the Nowzad charity’s name again.

With a new and improved cat room, we are already caring for new feline clients who now call Nowzad home, sprawled out on the custom made shelving that is positioned just right to catch the morning sun through the windows.

Our new clinic has seen the operating theatre rebuilt and expanded with an attached recovery room.

The dog kennels still need some work but already house many young dogs, some of whom had suffered severe injury and are now thankfully on the road to recovery. Many of these dogs were brought to us by concerned locals who were relieved that Nowzad is operating once more. Through our vet team still managing to conduct some key outreach programmes during 2022, we hope Nowzad’s reputation for delivering expert care and treatment of animals continues to spread.  
We also have several dogs waiting to travel to their forever homes from ex-pats and even Afghan locals who have relocated to Europe. Sadly, animal flights have not been reinstated at the time of writing so they are waiting out their time with us until we can find a viable transport route for them. 

We have also expanded our animal welfare support to the working animals, especially the horses and donkeys labouring away in the absolute hell hole of the brick kilns of Kabul.

Any given day will see these horses, donkeys and mules toil endlessly, dragging heavy wooden carts laden with bricks. Food is scarce and infrequent and even a water supply is not guaranteed. Malnutrition and dehydration is common and many animals, on the brink of collapse are still forced to work, throughout the appalling extremes of both summer and winter conditions.  They are often the only source of income for so many families but good animal welfare and husbandry is sadly non-existent in a country ravaged by conflict and now sanctions.
Nearly every horse we inspect suffers from open wounds caused by ill-fitting harnesses that have not been treated or allowed to heal.

Dr Reshad and his team are never short of animals to treat. We believe there to be approx 5,900 working animals in Kabul and its surrounds, and we estimate there to be over 1000 horses and donkeys working in the brick kilns alone.

The most critically-ill or wounded cases are brought back to base by the team to spend time recuperating at the Nowzad clinic or for longer periods of treatment and rest at the Nowzad donkey sanctuary.

Peter (named after our fabulous patron Peter Egan) and Mr Grumpy, (AKA Paul after Peter’s character Paul in Ever Decreasing Circles) were two such horses that we brought to the clinic. Pen was horrified by what he witnessed that day; in his words;

‘Peter was broken, he looked as if he had only just survived the trenches of the Somme. We stopped counting the open sores from his ill-fitting bridle and cart harness. His ribs were completely visible from the amount he was worked without the food to support his daily toil.

I spent a long time with him at the clinic that first night. His owner was only going to let him stay with us for a week before returning to him to the front lines of the brutal brick kilns.

I could not allow that to happen. The next day I brought him from the owner for $100 with a promise that the new replacement horse would be monitored by us on a regular basis. I didn’t know what else to do – I just knew Peter was finished with that life – we would care for him at Nowzad.’

Sadly, every night Peter would fall down and every morning the team would assemble to lift him back up as he just was not strong enough to do it himself. And lifting a full grown horse is no easy task.

The team made a great case to purchase and modify a crane normally used to lift engine blocks, with a sling that they would place under Peter before winching him upright.

Peter lasted three months with Nowzad, finally knowing love and kindness before giving up the fight. He deserved to rest.

Mr Grumpy aka Paul, was in slightly better condition but not by much. He was not happy to be around any humans through a deep sense of mistrust and who could blame him?

Sadly, Paul already suffering from a liver issue and weakened by years of hard labour died just a few days ago whilst we were writing this newsletter.

But because of your generous donations we could be there for them. The Nowzad team are treating donkeys and horses daily while improving life at the kilns as much as they can by the provision of temporary shelters and even permanent wells to reach fresh water supplies. Your support is needed more than ever.

The animals that come to the Nowzad clinic whether, dogs, cats, cows, goats, horses or donkeys only have you to look out for them. Afghanistan was not the easiest country to operate in before August 2021 and now it is even worse.

But as we went to print with this newsletter our dedicated Kabul team on World Spay Day neutered or spayed 28 cats as well as vaccinating them all against rabies. We are just super proud of them. Animal welfare is their priority.

So you really can be the difference today for our little patch of animal welfare, and every penny seriously counts there. Please do donate what you can to support this vital work.

Thank you from them and from us.

Afghanistan update March 2023