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Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 11:23 GMT
Hazaras survive on aid
Afghan Hazara villagers collect sacks of wheat which are distributed by the World Food Program
Hazaras are living off food handouts
Marcus George

Just weeks after the Taleban's demise, communities in the valleys of Bamiyan are struggling against the humanitarian disaster.

Bamiyan is the spiritual home of the Hazaras, a predominantly Shia community, and the most persecuted ethnic group under the Taleban.

The Taleban took our things and ruined our homes. Nothing is left now

Villager Hussein Ali
Widespread burning and looting of areas in the centre of the highlands of Afghanistan took away the Hazaras' means of livelihoods.

The communities are now surviving on regular handouts from aid agencies.

Starting again

Villagers from surrounding villages gathered to receive rations in the freezing temperatures at a distribution point two hours outside Bamiyan.

Large sacks of wheat were being loaded up onto donkeys, destined for villages two or three hours walk away.

I lost my son for nothing. He had done nothing

Villager Behzos
One of the villagers, Hussein Ali, said: "Our life is gone, and so is our possibilities for restoring it.

"Now the agencies are helping us and we need this help because the Taleban took our things and ruined our homes. Nothing is left now. We have no means to feed our families. All we have are the bags or rice and beans given to us."

Behzos stood waiting for her rations at a burnt out building. Like many other Hazaras, she has lost her son, who was taken away from their home and executed at the age of 27.

"What terrible things the Taleban did here! They destroyed everything and stole our belongings. I lost my son for nothing. He had done nothing".

Food filters in International organisations say fears of a humanitarian catastrophe in the region are diminishing as vital provisions are slowly getting through to the thousands of families in need.

French-based aid organisation Solidarite returned to Bamiyan two weeks ago to continue their operation in this mountainous region.

Hazara villagers head home with their donkeys loaded with sacks of wheat
High altitude and snow-covered passes are hamper aid efforts
More than 13,000 families are dependent on rations of wheat, beans and non-food assistance, but with more people returning to the area they are struggling to cope with the demand.

"Reconstruction will soon be a focus after the crisis has been brought under control. Other aid agencies are setting up programmes for this and we will help them," said Solidarite's Phillipe Branchat.

But the high altitude and snow-covered passes are hampering aid programmes in the valley.

Drought has also increased hardship in this region, wiping out harvests for the last three years.

The lack of snowfall this winter has prompted fears that this may continue.

See also:

30 Dec 01 | South Asia
Giant Buddhas 'to be restored'
11 Dec 01 | South Asia
Desperation in Bamiyan
19 Oct 01 | South Asia
Hazara people's long suffering
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