09 October, 2006

Aid for widows and orphans in Afghanistan

CNEWS of Canada reports that the Canadian International Development Agency is going to end its food aid programme for the widows and orphans of Afghanistan, the poorest people in the country. The programme is to be replaced with vocational training so that the women can get jobs to support themselves and their children.

A long line of widows in tattered blue burkas waited for hours Sunday for Canadian-bought rations of flour, cooking oil, dried peas and medicine.
Younger women had weary children alongside them who rarely fussed. The eldest widows, with mouths full of rotting teeth, described illnesses they can't afford to treat. They are the poorest of Afghanistan's poor, yet their monthly food support is to be cut off by April.
That's when the Canadian International Development Agency plans to replace the rations, worth C$2.5 million a year, with training designed to help widows support themselves.
In theory a good idea but, leaving aside the question of what jobs are they going to able to get in a non-industrialised economy, local cultural and social problems appear to have been just ignored. As one official phrased it diplomatically,
...many will face child-care issues and resistance from men who don't want them to work..
Resistance? The Taliban and other mediaeval muslim relics will kill them.

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