Winter in Kabul is especially hard for refugees and families in deep poverty. What little can be earnt from day-labour and other efforts goes to buy food, getting enough money together for a warm blanket is very difficult. Operation Mercy Afghanistan with the help of the women's Self Help Groups in Kabul decided to do something about it.
An initial survey was done to decide which poor families would be asked to produce a blanket. Next the families were invited to the SHG offices where they received materials and instruction for producing a quality blanket. About three days later the families returned the finished blankets to the SHG where they were checked for quality and stored until the time came for distribution.
At distribution it was again stressed that only the poorest families would receive a blanket. Following the rule that 80 percent of the families had to be outside of the SHG (those within the SHG now having other means of help through their membership) the women registered families such as those who had a disabled family member, a lost father or mother, those whose houses had suffered damage due to floods or other problems, and elderly people with no family.
"Aziza* is a refugee from Istalef. When the Taliban attacked Istalef, her house was destroyed. So she and her families became refugees in Kabul. At the moment they rent one room, with five children in the family. She took a loan from the SHG group and her husband used it for a little 'selling cart' where he sells small cent-items for children. That does not bring much income. One of her children has an illness and needs a blood-transfusion once a month. The treatment of that illness causes a lot of expenses for the family. So the blanket is an important help in the winter when they do not have money for heating." (From a worker with Operation Mercy Afghanistan).
The receiving families outside of the SHG were even more thankful and happy to receive the blankets than those within the group. Many of them struggle to find enough rubbish or other materials for heating and really feel the winter cold.
The sustainability of the blankets was the main reason to produce and distribute them instead of food which can only be eaten once. The hope is that in the future some of these poor families would start their own SHGs after having been in contact with the current groups and seeing how they can work together to better their own lives.
*Aziza is not her real name.