Afghanistan is a land with a turbulent history. Today the Afghan culture endures, reflecting the resilience and tenacity of the Afghan people. Operation Mercy is working together with local communities in many effective programs, such as, reducing infant mortality with Birth Life Saving Skills – BLiSS, providing leadership training and empowering women through the development of the Self Help Group Approach.
Afghanistan...the name derived from Persian, meaning "land of the Afghans."
Afghanistan is a mosaic of ethnicity and geography, from the soaring mountains of Badakshan peppered with Aryan Pamiri Ismailis, to the hot plains of Kandahar and Helmand in the south, populated by darker Sunni Pahtuns. Persian Tajiks and Pashtuns rub shoulders with Mongol Hazars, Turkic Uzbeks, Turkmen and Aimak. There are also many Afghan refugees living outside the country. Pashto and Dari are the two official languages spoken. Many can speak and/or understand both languages.
Afghanistan is a landlocked nation between Iran and Pakistan, with the Hindu Kush Mountains running northeast to southwest across the country, dividing it into three major regions. Afghanistan’s highest peak reaches a height of 7,492 m at Noshaq. Afghanistan also has large areas of sandy desert near the southern border and plains in the north and south west. Afghanistan is situated in a geologically active area evidenced by over a dozen earthquakes occurring during the 20th century. Extreme ranges of temperature are a remarkable and challenging feature of the Afghan climate. Intense summer heat can reach up to 50C on the hot plains or waves of intense cold can plummet temperatures to minus 20C in the mountains in winter. Living in this climate has taught the Afghan people to be resilient, resourceful and persevering.
If climate and geography were not challenging enough, the Afghan people have also endured years of conflict, countless invasions, wars, droughts, and ongoing political instability.
The art of carpet making has been prominent for centuries. Afghanistan is known for weaving fine wool into beautiful carpets, with bazaars still trading in natural dyes. Local people continue to make beautiful handcrafts.
Afghans are fiercely loyal, love poetry and seem to have a proverb for every occasion. This Afghan proverb suggests the heart of the Afghan people to overcome the obstacles of their homeland, "There is a path to the top of even the highest mountain."
After the fall of the Taliban’s rule in 2001, Operation Mercy began working in Afghanistan. We started working in the north as the first NGO in an area of 70,000 people, bringing emergency relief from neighbouring Tajikistan to suffering IDPs (internally displaced people).
“the IDPs did not want to just receive food and clothing but wanted to work for what we provided for them giving an indication of how resilient and proud these people are.” (David Lovett, Operation Mercy Tajikistan Director, in 2001)
Today, we continue working and serving in Afghanistan in a broad range of programmes. We are empowering women in peri-urban communities through the development of Self Help Groups, enabling these women to start small-scale businesses. The project, Rahmet Publications, translates, produces, publishes and distributes a variety of culturally sensitive books in both Dari and Pashto. BLiSS is an innovative programme designed to address the needs of women and babies, during and after pregnancy and specifically works towards reducing infant mortality in Afghanistan. And WaSH is a community training programme aimed at helping families and communities to have better hygiene practices and cleaner water sources, with the aim of reducing under-5's mortality