I had to travel up to Maimana, in Faryab province at short notice this week. While the timing was not good, the trip was. It is great to get out of Kabul.
I spend hours talking to the team the first night, and the next day, we travel out to a village, where the local TV station is filming the opening of a water tank built through our development team’s facilitation. I am pushed to the front to say a few words for the camera, and then we cut the ribbon. Later we visit a nearby school, where a large grape trellis has been built in memory of Fay, a worker with our agency who died in Kabul early last year. It was not a violent death, but terribly sad nonetheless.
At this same school, the development team has helped install water filters. I know this is probably quite a dull photo in terms of content, but the significance of it is immeasurable. These blue filters you can see are bio-sand filters: no cost to run, they function indefinitely, and with periodic cleaning, they provide 99.8% pure water. The water fills the yellow plastic tubs, which are then poured into the steel tank, from which a series of taps provide water to the 600 students. These girls now have clean water. Out of frame are a group of toilets, and in the homes of these students, more filters. It is such in insignificant thing to us, who are used to pure water. To them, it is a huge step towards full life.
The headmaster then treats us to watermelon and green peaches under the shade of the trees in the school garden. He is intensely proud of his school, and once he realises I am the Big Boss From Kabul, he spends a lot of time haranguing me for more assistance. He is not likely to get it from us, but I appreciate his fervour. God grant that there were 1000 headmasters and mistresses across this country, who cared so much about their schools and students.
Further on we inspect a work in progress: a deep well is being replaced by an electric pump, again facilitated by our staff. The original well was dug and the hand pump installed in 2007, but the water is more than 60m deep, and hand pumps cannot really operate at that depth: it failed regularly. I comment that DACAAR, the implementing partner at the time, should have known better. Mark,who consults in the project corrects me: at that time, there was no electricity, and so no alternative. Sure, the pump broke regularly, but it could be fixed. It is only in the last year that electricity is reliably available, and so an electric pump and storage tank possible. I am chastened.
As we drive out, I see a wonderful contrast (but badly photographed as the exposure was way too high…): a man hauling a new chest freezer on a donkey.
The next day and a half are spent in meetings with the team, and I fly home the day after Rabbani’s assassination.