Winter Emergency in Western Afghanistan

Thousands of people are in need of relief in the western Afghan provinces of Herat and Ghor, suffering from the harshest winter in several decades. As much as 5 feet of snow have left villages without sufficient food, heating fuel and access to medical care. It is reported that 70 people and thousands of livestock have died in Herat province, with freezing temperatures over the past two weeks.

From its field office in Herat city, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has mobilized emergency relief teams of engineers, hygiene promoters, and field officers who set out to the surrounding districts of Kohsan, Kushk and Adraskan today. In Ghor province, CRS teams are carrying out assessments in Dulaina and Chaghcharan districts.

CRS, which already was carrying out a winterization program in the area funded by the Lithuanian government for vulnerable rural families, has committed another $50,000 of private funds to the emergency, and plans to source additional funding for a large-scale response. The agency has provided heaters and fuel to transit centers for Afghans who have been deported from Iran and plans are underway for the immediate initiation of road clearing work.

"Access right now is severely limited in most areas of Ghor. The main passes are closed, with government-supported teams trying to get them open. Implementing additional cash for work projects along secondary roads will provide quick cash to villages, while clearing the roads will enable greater access to people in need," said Nancy Hearne, CRS program coordinator in Ghor.

 Food for work activities will also be of a part of CRS' relief effort given the recent increase in food cost, lack of stock in the local market, and blocked access to markets due to the extreme weather conditions.

"The rising cost of wheat is going to hit the poor very hard. Therefore, food for work, and food assistance to the very poor, is what is needed urgently," said Paul Hicks, CRS Afghanistan country representative.

This winter emergency follows a season of poor crop yields in Ghor which, according to a FEWSNet food security assessment, is likely to result in an estimated 230,000 people in need of 11,700 metric tons of food this winter/spring.

The CRS field emergency teams are equipped with first aid kits, medicine, fuel, heaters, food, water supplies and transportation to make work possible in the harsh conditions and with the dwindling supplies in local markets. They are also trained in emergency preparedness specialized for winter conditions, and collaborating closely with the local leadership and ministries to maximize the support available across the area. The Ministry of Public Works is helping to clear the road from Chaghcharan to Herat, via Jam and Dahane-garmab, which is the main way into Shahrak and the southern part of Ghor.

CRS has worked in Afghanistan since 2001. With offices in the Afghanistan's capital of Kabul, western provinces of Herat and Ghor, and a new office in Bamiyan, CRS programs focus on long-term development projects reaching some of the poorest and most rural populations, and helping communities strengthen their means for self-sufficiency and an overall improved quality of life.

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  • Guest

    How sick is it that last week a news article said that the Taliban is targeting Westerners in Kabul restaurants and this week Westerners are called upon to help freezing and starving Afghanis?

    The true picture of the "Ugly American" is that we actually WILL  send resources to help these innocents.

    To those who say we just need to be nice to others around the world and they'll stop homicidal bombs, I guess the Taliban didn't get the memo.  Americans give more charity to the needy around the world than anybody else (CRS is a major distributer of the funds) and Muslims are the recipients of much of it (think Tsunami victims)

    Maybe the Taliban should spend less time blowing up ancient carvings of Buddha  and innocent Westerners reclining at table, and more time saving their people. 

  • Guest

    Yeah, the legacy of Mohammed has been for the most part – hatred, strife, poverty and now terrorism. It's the second most given name in England so we know which way they're headed.

    Is that a future picture of heather being gathered in the Scottish hills?

  • Guest

    Please don't assume that all the Afghans are "bad" people.  My Army husband was killed near Herat last August in an accident.  He had been in Afghanistan for approximately 8 months working to train their police.  He said he was happy to be there because the people were so good and truly appreciative.  I've been trying to find some Catholic services in the area so that my children and I could in some way help support the struggling people there.  This is the first article I've come across that has shown me what Catholic relief services are doing there.  Thanks for the article!

  • Guest

    Anne, I am deeply sorry for your loss. 

    It is rarely the poor and struggling peoples who are the terrorists.  The poor and struggling are kept more than busy enough just trying to survive.

    Rather, it is those who have the power to keep the poor and struggling as they are who are so short-sighted as to "bite the hand that feeds them".  Perhaps hearts and minds can be won by a showing of solidarity, but only the fool turns his back on those whose deepest committment is to kill him.

  • Guest


    how are you doing? We've been praying for you.

  • Guest

    Anne–thank you for your sacrifice—your unimaginable sacrifice.  We too send our prayers.  I hope you and your children find a "way" in Afghanistan.

    May God Bless you and yours with consolation and hope.


    Jesus, I Trust in You!

  • Guest

    Anne, you are blessed and you are a blessing to us because of your Christian attitude. I don't know that I would be able to hold such an opinion after so painful a loss.

    As elkabrikir commented, we Americans give a lot. We've given aid and comfort to those who need our help. You and others have given it all and want to give even more. That is why I support our troops there because I have heard many reports like yours.

    It's the contrast between Christianity and Islam. And of course there are good Moslems and bad Christians. May the Lord continue to comfort you.

  • Guest


    My deepest condolances go out to you and your children.  I know your husband died the noble death of a hero.  A hero who was fighting to keep your children, my children, and Afghani children free and safe from the evil of the Taliban and its eveil ilk.

    Thank you for your inspiring concern for the innocents of Afghanistan in the midst of your sorrow and grief.  I know those peoples of many ethnic tribes that form the Afghan people, recognize the sacrifice of men like your husband and women like you.

    I will donate to this specific CRS fund in memory of your husband and because it is your wish to help the innocent Afghan victims of the Taliban and now the weather.

    "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."