Afghanistan: donation boxes give new life

By Sailab Ayubi in Kabul

The Afghanistan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) has initiated a fundraising programme which empowers the local communities to respond to natural disasters in appropriate time.

The Disaster Management department of the ARCS has installed donation boxes in the different provinces of the country to increase local fundraising and to mobilise local resources to respond to disasters such as flooding, earthquakes, drought, accidents and other emergencies.

"The donation box saved my life," said Pari Gul sitting in her room cradling her 3-month-old son. Pari Gul is a resident of the village of Safer Khan in Zindajan district, located 25 Km west of Herat City.

She was badly burnt when fire surrounded her in the kitchen during the preparation of the midday meal for her family. At that time there was no one to help Pari Gul.

A member of her family informed the ARCS donation committee of Pari Gul's accident, and she was then taken to the central hospital of Herat city. She was treated for 20 days and most of the expenses were covered by the ARCS donation box in the village.

Pari Gul's husband is a daily worker who earns 100 Afghanis, the equivalent of two US dollars a day, and the amount is not enough to cover even their daily expenses.

The donation committee in Safar Khan Village has responded to eight other similar cases in the village.

Until now the Safer Khan Village did not have an education facility for the villagers, but soon after the donation boxes were installed, the committee established a primary school and English language centre. The teachers are Afghanistan Red Crescent volunteers and their costs are covered by the local donation box.

The ARCS community-based disaster programme was started by the Disaster Management Department in Heart province in March 2004, when the first donation box was installed in Safer Khan village, a disaster-prone area which often experiences flooding.

Later on, the programme was expanded to five other villages in the same district. Other branches of the ARCS were also encouraged to participate, and other donation boxes were installed in Herat, Jalalabad, Laghman, Kunar, Kandahar and Badghes provinces. The process proved popular with the communities and the local authorities.

The ARCS has also expanded the fundraising scheme in schools. "For the moment the programme is active in two schools of Herat and we plan to expand it to all schools in the city", said Ihsanullah, ARCS disaster management officer for the western region.

The donation boxes are managed by trained ARCS volunteers who are well-respected and trusted people in the village. A finance committee for each donation box is chosen from the ARCS volunteers in each village to manage the raised funds.

From April 2004 to the end of May 2005, local communities have contributed more than 800,000 Afghanis, that is about 16,000 USD. Most of the money has been spent on emergencies in the districts, including planting 6,000 plants in Harirood River to protect the surrounding villages from floods.