Gates Foundation sends relief to Afghanistan


June 14, 2001

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is providing $300,000 for Mercy Corps’ Afghan Drought Relief and Rehabilitation project. Millions in South and Central Asia have been affected by a severe drought that has caused a major water shortage, threatened crops and livestock, and displaced tens of thousands of people.

The drought that began in 1999 has worsened; supplies of drinking and irrigation water are low and the water table has dropped over 20 meters in some areas of the Chora District in Afghanistan. Inadequate rain in early 2001 will again reduce harvests this summer, offering no respite until winter rains expected next year.

In addition to poor harvests, the drought also endangers livestock, an important source of livelihood in Afghanistan. The drought has forced many residents of these devastated areas to leave their communities to find food, water, and employment opportunities. Once displaced, families face widespread scarcities of food, medicine, and shelter.

“The desperate plight of Afghans forced off their land and into horrific camps is a growing world tragedy,” says Lynn Renken, Mercy Corps’ Senior Program Officer for South and Central Asia. “Mercy Corps’ strategy in Afghanistan is to help Afghan families to stay in their homes and on their land - a far better alternative than the arduous journey of false hope to the under-served refugee camps or into the unknown.”

Building upon a current Mercy Corps project that is also supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this project strives to provide immediate relief to a minimum of 8,000 people by helping build sustainable livelihoods and food security through community participation, skill building, and investment in socio-economic structures. Mercy Corps will achieve these goals by:

  • Increasing access to potable water to more than 4,000 people living in drought-affected communities in the Chora District by providing wells and the establishment of local water management committees.
  • Providing cash-for-work opportunities to more than 1,000 families to increase purchasing power, facilitating their ability to buy basic household needs.
  • Enabling 250 families to retain critical household assets (livestock) to facilitate post-drought recovery.
Since 1986, Mercy Corps has successfully completed more than 40 projects totaling over $20 million in Afghanistan. Past projects have included activities related to drought response and rehabilitation, agriculture, crop substitution, and cash-for work infrastructure rehabilitation with a special emphasis on water systems and irrigation. Mercy Corps has also focused on helping refugees and displaced people return to their homes, rebuild infrastructure, and resume farming and livestock raising after years of civil strife.