Villages like Qila Belund, Rabat-Qarabaghi and Qala-E-Khwaja felt the brunt of battle: tens of thousands of people fled their communities and thousands of homes were destroyed.
To listen to Shomali villagers like Ghlam Sakhi, 55, and his nephew, Rahmuddin Huzruddin, 22, is to hear experiences borne of anger and heartbreak. "Life here was once good," said Huzruddin, recalling an era when nearby fields were filled with wheat, corn, and grapes.
But the Taliban targeted the area and the result was decimation, even before the battles. Now people must be careful when stepping onto fields because of landmines. With the additional burden of a drought, it will be years before crops will return to their one-time bounty.
"Nothing was left," Sakhi recalled about the moment he and other family members returned to Rabat-Qarabaghi in early 2002. Happily, there is hope for the villagers as they continue reconstructing their communities.
With help from CWS and its local partners, some 1,000 families have rebuilt their homes. This effort is part of a $1.3 million housing reconstruction project to provide housing for 1,500 families in the Shomali Valley. In late January, CWS, its local partners, and local government officials celebrated a milestone in the project with a ceremony of solidarity in the village of Qila Belund, marking the completion of 1,000 homes in the region. The remaining 500 will be completed this spring.
A cornerstone of the project has been families providing labor and bricks to supplement the CWS Housing Kits, which, among other materials, include the homes' wooden beams, doors, and windows.
"We are very thankful," Huzruddin said recently as he took a break from placing wooden beams atop the house he and his family now occupy. "This has come at a very crucial time for us."