Afghanistan: Jackets and shoes bringing warm smiles in cold Afghanistan
"What's wrong, little guy?" she asked, gently touching his cheek. Malik shivered as a gust of cold wind blustered across the mountain plateau where they were standing. He looked up at the stranger and tried to speak, but his teeth only chattered. In the zero degree cold, surrounded by snowy peaks, Malik's "jacket" was only a long-sleeve winter shirt full of holes.
But a little later, Malik was beaming. He was wearing a brand-new, quilted, maroon-colored jacket with a hood, and no trace of the misery that haunted his face minutes earlier. In his little arms he clutched his first brand-new pair of trainers, which would soon replace the shoddy plastic shoes on his feet.
Malik is one of more than 88,400 Afghans who have received warm jackets and/or trainers this winter from World Vision Korea and the Korean government.
His father, Mohammed, said the 5-year-old has never had a new jacket and shoes before. He smiles at his boy, who is busy showing off his new clothes. "We are very happy for the help," he declares. The family received enough jackets for all their children, plus two adult jackets.
In Badghis Provice these days, it's practically impossible to drive more than 5 kilometres without noticing a bright burst of colour against the khaki-and-brown background of the countryside -- a child sporting a new World Vision jacket and shoes and a big smile.
Getting the jackets and shoes to children like Malik and their families has been a major challenge for World Vision Afghanistan. Malik's village, Badrawak, sits atop a 1,000-meter mountain plateau above Char Taq, the capital of remote Jawand district in Badghis Province. Reaching Jawand over the rocky dirt "road" can take days if it's snowing. The only way to reach plateau villages is by donkey or on foot.
Badrawak is about four hours' ride through a rocky canyon and over steep hills that turn to slippery ice when it snows and thick mud as the snow melts. In some places along the 15-kilometer trek, even the sure-footed donkeys struggle: passengers are advised to get off and climb or risk a possibly fatal fall.
This winter, World Vision Afghanistan has helped 18,147 families in Jawand district despite the area's near-inaccessibilty. Beneficiaries have received not only jackets and shoes, but food for malnourished children and pregnant women and nursing mothers, woollen blankets, medicines and more.
Representatives of dozens of World Vision Village Organisations offered to travel from five hours to five days to move the goods from the World Vision warehouse in Char Taq to their villages free of charge because they were so grateful for help. They and more than 1,800 donkeys have helped make the giant effort possible.