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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 01:06 GMT
Threats and fear in Kandahar
Aid worker Michel Kok, who works for Tearfund, one of the few British agencies still working in southern Afghanistan, writes about life in Kandahar.

I have just returned from a short break in Holland.

Boys from village near the Sigha canal project
Boys in a village soon to benefit from a new canal project

For the past 17 months, I have been Tearfund's field co-ordinator in Kandahar city, southern Afghanistan.

I enjoy working here because the needs are great and many people are struggling for survival.

We have been working with local communities to rebuild schools, repair water supplies for irrigation and carry out health and agricultural education.

Afghans 'most affected'

Returning to Kandahar, I found the security situation to be much worse then ever before, with different groups starting to destabilise daily life through numerous attacks inside the Kandahar city limits.

An Afghan worker on the Shiga canal project, being supported by Tearfund.
The foreign groups' Afghan workers will be worst hit by a withdrawal

In one week we had six different incidents, from hand-grenade attacks in the city to a small bomb attached to a bicycle that exploded in the local market.

This last incident was only one kilometre away from our base and, since then, our movements have been severely restricted.

This means we only attend the important meetings inside the city - otherwise we do not leave our compound.

My Afghan colleagues are affected the most by the current situation.

If we are forced to leave Kandahar because of the security situation, these Afghans will be without work, income and the means to support their large and poor families.

Safe area

The Afghans are great to work with, but a lot of what we try to do together is affected by the security situation here.

We came to work with Afghans in helping to rebuild, but now we are spending more and more time inside our compound for safety reasons
Michel Kok

This really frustrates me - we have fantastic, hard-working staff and the country is very needy, but there is increasingly little we can do.

But the Afghans never give up and they have survived some dreadful situations over the last 25 years.

It is a challenge for me not to give up and let the scale and depth of the problems facing Afghanistan get on top of me.

So when I feel unsafe or scared I think of the courage of my Afghan colleagues. That helps.

One Afghan I know was threatened because he works for a non-governmental agency, but he did not give up.

He moved his family away from the area to a safer area so he could continue his work.

Stories like this make me feel so small. What would I do if I or my family were threatened?

Would I stay and continue to work? I am glad that I do not yet have to make that decision.

Bound to the compound

Tearfund project near Kandahar
Children crowd around a well built with Tearfund's help

There has been a measure of luck with recent security incidents.

Nobody has been killed in the attacks in recent weeks.

During my journey back to Kandahar I was so looking forward to returning, but now everything is changing.

We came to work with Afghans in helping to rebuild, but now we are spending more and more time inside our compound for safety reasons and we are not able to visit our project sites.

I hope that very soon we will be able to return to normal operations as we repair water supplies and carry out health and agricultural education.

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