A Gift of Warmth
February 9, 2009—Janat Gul was born in Pakistan as a refugee in 1994, while his country was in the midst of a civil war. Gul was happy to return to his homeland of Afghanistan six years ago. He is one of thousands of Afghan children whose families have returned to Afghanistan since 2002 after having lived in Pakistan as refugees for almost 20 years.
Like many of the children living in the district of Khak-e-Jabar, Afghanistan, Gul lost his father to the war. Gul and his five brothers and sisters live with their mother in a home adjacent to other relatives. He goes to school and when school is not in session, he attends a few English courses. Gul is eager to practice his English with anybody who will listen. Sometimes, he will blurt out his favorite phrases whenever an opportunity arises.
"Cars are very important for emergency cases!" he will say excitedly and with a smile.
But behind this smile, Gul and his family face serious hardship like staying warm after this year's first snowfall. During the winters of 2007-2008, more than 2,000 people, mostly children and the elderly, died as a result of weather conditions and lack of access to adequate food. Gul's district of Khak-e-Jabar, is a rural and isolated area where families experience temperatures well below freezing for much of the winter. Because of the lack of available firewood, families burn small amounts of brushwood throughout the day. By nightfall, these fires burn out and the cold temperatures return.
UMCOR's Afghanistan office is helping thousands of Afghan families stay warm this winter by providing blankets through its winterization program.
In January, UMCOR Afghanistan distributed warm winter blankets to 3,900 families or approximately 23,400 people in the Khak-e-Jabar district. Thanks to a grant issued by USAID's office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, each family received two blankets.
As Gul stood in the cold waiting to receive his blankets, he was eager to use more of his newly-learned English. He expressed his thanks for UMCOR's assistance, saying, "Thank you for all your help that you do in Khak-e-Jabar. Thank you that you give us two blankets!"
Gul's grandfather Jamshid added, "In Khak-e-Jabar, it is freezing in this time and we couldn't buy even one blanket for our children. Thank you for helping us."
UMCOR has been working in the district of Khak-e-Jabar since 2004, but this year, UMCOR has undertaken a large-scale intervention project that includes school and shelter construction, goat distribution, hygiene trainings, school kit distribution, seed distribution, as well as the rehabilitation of streams and underground canals.
UMCOR's work in Afghanistan is supported by US State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. Many of the residents of Khak-e-Jabar continue to ask for assistance from UMCOR for the coming years to provide more shelters, agriculture projects, and cash-for-work programs. UMCOR's mission in Afghanistan continues- to help meet the needs of the families like Gul's in Khak-e-Jabar.
How You Can Help
UMCOR is working in Afghanistan to help families survive the winter season by providing blankets, wood burning stoves, firewood, and more. Support efforts like these by giving to Afghanistan Emergency, UMCOR Advance #602225.