Following over forty years of ongoing conflict, the continued effects of war on the people of Afghanistan is most palpable in the migrant camps that are throughout the country.
In the last 3 years alone, the number of Afghan people internally displaced by conflict doubled to 1.2 million.
Each camp can be home to as many as several thousand people who have fled their homes to seek safety, These people now face abject poverty and hardship.
With fading interest from international aid agencies, these resilient communities have no choice but to be self-reliant with their core possessions being just a few animals to their name.
Our ‘Migrant Camp’ Outreach programme is vital for not only the animals of these camps, but the people too.
Here, Hannah describes her visit to a Migrant Camp, and exactly how Nowzad is helping them: "We pulled up to the camp entrance, the sight of a family of scruffy stray, Labrador type dogs greeted us – a mum, dad and three pups all huddled together for warmth on a bitter February morning.
As we came to a stop we saw the group of children within the camp scatter at the sight of our car, they didn’t go far as we soon saw their little faces peeking through the gaps of their improvised homes of mud and tarpaulins.
The team stepped out of the car to a unison of crunching beneath our feet – a combination of the frozen cold ground and several layers of rubbish that made up the uneven camp surface.
With no sanitation or waste removal to speak of, the camp was built on a bed of waste, a breeding ground for disease.
Pen scanned around, cautious of our surroundings – after all, we were not only in a migrant camp, but an active war zone where the threat of kidnapping of westerners is at an all-time high.
Soon a group of men swarmed around us – they were pleased to see us but anxious to find out how we could help them.
Najwa, our Country Manager and Dr Maliha, one of our experienced female Veterinarians, took charge and confidently spoke in fast Dari to the group. I could not help but feel an overwhelming sense of pride – in a country where women aren’t often listened to or respected, this group of traditional men were listening intently and gratefully to how these women were going to improve their lives – maybe this small influence would encourage them to send their daughters to school to give them a better life outside of the camp. One could hope.
The men agreed to give us a tour of the camp and as we began walking we soon came across a small calf tied close to a fence – Dr Maliha explained that we will vaccinate the calf against foot and mouth disease and rabies - she also explained that the calf would need a longer tether, shelter, clean water and substantial nourishment.
On the mention of water, the men took us over to their water supply which was nothing more than a rudimentary well in the ground, they dipped the bucket hanging from the rope into the well and beckoned to us to look in - the water was brown and opaque. My heart sank, what chance do the animals have if the people didn’t even have a fresh water supply? The thought reinforced just how crucial our disease-preventing vaccinations were for not only the animals, but the people too.
As we continued around the camp we came across chickens, goats and sheep, with Dr Maliha reeling off the vaccinations we would provide to the animals (Newcastle Disease Virus vaccines, Peste des Petits Ruminants vaccines, Anthrax vaccines). As we walked along a black dog came and trotted alongside us, a beautiful black Labrador with big brown eyes, as we came to a stop she sat and pressed against me, bowing her head, sadly her ears had been cut off, a common practise in Afghanistan. As Pen and I stroked and fussed over her Dr Maliha explained that cutting the ears off is not only unnecessary and unkind but increases the risk of infection. Within seconds a little black puppy came skipping over with a used washing-up sponge in its mouth, shaking its head as if trying to kill it. We asked if it was her puppy and the men nodded, we asked if she had any more, they shook their heads no – the other puppies had succumbed to disease. We explained that we will vaccinate the puppy for distemper, parvo and rabies and spay, neuter and vaccinate all the dogs on the camp. Even though the dogs were used as unofficial ‘guard dogs’, the men gladly accepted our offer.
It soon came for us to say goodbye and by this time the children had realised that we were of no threat and had resumed play. A boy stood atop a small mound with a plastic bag tied to a string as a makeshift kite whilst two young girls stood nearby, one clinging to a filthy doll, the other vigorously sweeping the ground with a branch. One of the men walked over to them and I followed? ‘Dukhtat’? (Daughter) I asked pointing to them. ‘Bali!’ (Yes!) he replied proudly. I took out my phone and pointed to the camera and he nodded in agreement. I took some photos of the girls ‘Maqbool!’ (Beautiful!) I told them in my very limited dari – I turned the phone around to show them, no doubt it was the first ever time they’d ever seen themselves on camera, or maybe even ever – they stared at the screen then looked up at me with bewildered smiles.
Pen came over to our group and took a photo of the three of us, I felt guilty crouching next to the girls in my hijab with my thermal clothes underneath – the girls were wearing nothing but thin clothes, skirts and sandals.
As our car rocked from side to side out of the camp Pen and I looked at each other and asked ourselves the question we ask ourselves almost every day ‘Are we doing enough?’
Dr Maliha turned around from the front seat and smiled ‘Yes! The people of the camp are proud people and we want to help them, we have given them more hope than they ever had yesterday’
Our Veterinary Team have since visited the camp three times, carrying out successful TNVR and vaccinating all animals against disease.