May 26, 2004
By Linda Bloom*
NEW YORK (UMNS)-- Increasing violence across Afghanistan has not
prevented the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) from doing
relief and development work, according to the agency’s head of mission
|A UMNS photo courtesy of UMCOR/Afghanistan.
Children attend an improvised school under a tent in Afghanistan.
projects include building at least 69 schools and clinics under a new
$4.6 million contract with the United States Agency for International
Development (USAID); assisting UNICEF with child trafficking and the
demobilization of child soldiers and providing cows, seedlings and
fertilizer to returning refugees.
“What we want to do is help people with their basic needs,” said Warren Harrity, whose office is based in Kabul.
more than two years, UMCOR has responded to the plight of the Afghan
people through its “Love in the Midst of Tragedy” fund, started in
response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The agency has cooperated with
other relief agencies, particularly members of Action by Churches
work has included the distribution of winterized tents and household
supplies; the rebuilding of homes; rehabilitation of water sources;
provision of agricultural supplies; distribution of school kits and the
offering of income opportunities through loans.
|A UMNS photo by John C. Goodwin.
Warren Harrity, head of mission for Afghanistan, UMCOR
previously employed by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration,
U.S. State Department, became familiar with UMCOR while he was working
with refugees in Bosnia/Herzegovenia. He became head of mission for
Afghanistan in August 2003 and found himself “very impressed” by the
Afghan people and their determination to rebuild their country.
then, he told United Methodist News Service in a May 24 interview, “the
violence has increased and accelerated.” Once confined mostly to the
border area with Pakistan, the violence has spread so about a third of
the country is classified at “high risk.” Areas of “medium risk” can
also be found in northern Afghanistan, where ad hoc militias roam. “What
you find is a large body of people trying to destabilize the progress
there,” he explained.
lauded the approval of a new constitution for Afghanistan earlier this
year, but noted that implementation will take some time. If
self-governance is going to work, there must be “a rule of law,” he
pointed out. “Right now, it’s the rule of the gun.”
UMCOR’s work has not been disrupted, several factors helped delay the
opening of a satellite office in the Gardez District, Paktia Province,
in southeast Afghanistan.
950 families are in the process of relocating to that area, Harrity
said. UMCOR has made a proposal to the State Department to provide
shelter assistance for the returning refugees, which the agency would
complement by drilling 50 wells and providing 1,000 cows.
United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, UMCOR’s parent agency,
already has funded 100 pregnant cows as well as seedlings and fertilizer
for families, he added.
The biggest project -- building an estimated 20 schools each in
the Kabul, Parwan and Kabisa provinces – has just begun. The work in
each province will be subcontracted to local firms. UMCOR is one of five
implementers constructing a total of 400 schools, along with additional
clinics, for USAID, whose clients are the Afghan Ministry of Education
and Ministry of Health.
|A UMNS photo courtesy of UMCOR/Afghanistan.
Harrity, near right, head of mission for the United Methodist Committee
on Relief in Afghanistan, joins children at a makeshift school in
the Afghan educational system remains in bad shape. “Children are
virtually, under tents, in bombed-out remains of buildings and under
shade trees going to school,” Harrity said.
is working with government officials and local communities to finalize
locations for the schools and clinics it will build and expects the bulk
of the work to be completed in 2004.
projects focusing on the needs of children are being conducted with
UNICEF. Children who have been trafficked to Saudi Arabia for
“commercial purposes,” such as selling gum on the streets, are being
returned to Afghanistan. UMCOR was involved in a government workshop on
the trafficking problem in April and has been key “in helping formalize
this national plan,” according to Harrity.
in June, UMCOR will help demobilize child soldiers from ad hoc militias
in six provinces. “That will lead to the integration of these children
(into society),” he said.
to support UMCOR’s ongoing work in Afghanistan can be made to UMCOR
Advance No. 602225 and dropped in church collection plates or mailed
directly to UMCOR at 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115.
Call (800) 554-8583
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media can contact Linda Bloom (646)369-3759 or e-mail email@example.com.