Afghans in war-torn village struggle to rebuild their homes – Manila Bulletin

In the ruins of an Afghan village destroyed by years of war, a deepening economic crisis has left Javid with little hope of rebuilding his home.

AFP / MANILA BULLETIN

For years, Arzo, strategically located along a main road entering the central town of Ghazni, was a battleground.

Taliban insurgents fought government forces in five military outposts in and around the small village, often using civilian homes as staging posts.
“There was shooting day and night and our house was in the middle,” Javid, 31, told AFP.

He points to the tunnel the Taliban dug into his ruined house this year to attack one of the army posts.

Javid and his family are still staying with relatives in another village until they find enough money to rebuild their house.

He has nothing left, having already borrowed 160,000 Afghans ($ 1,680) to relaunch his small shop.

“We need the help of NGOs and the government, otherwise my family will not be able to come back,” says Javid.

After more than a year of fierce fighting, the last inhabitants fled Arzo in June.

Two months later, Afghanistan fell to the Taliban and an economic crisis ensued, with the international community largely freezing funding for the aid-dependent nation.

On top of these hardships, a devastating drought triggered warnings of severe food shortages and a humanitarian catastrophe.

Unexploded bombs

Rural areas such as Arzo have been hardest hit by the two-decade conflict that saw Taliban insurgents clash with US, NATO and Afghan forces, with civilian casualties on both sides.

Families are gradually returning to the rubble of Arzo to try to rebuild themselves.

Arzo Lailuma, 55, lost her daughter in the crossfire between Afghan forces and insurgents.

Her husband survived a bullet to the head, but can no longer work.

The first time her house collapsed in the fighting, she rebuilt it. This time she has no money.

Rafiullah, 65, a teacher at the local girls’ school, lost her daughter to a stray bullet.

She died two weeks before her wedding.

School has resumed and Rafiullah tries to rejoice at having reunited with his students, but he still mourns the loss of his child.

The school’s blue gate is riddled with dozens of bullets, the windows are smashed and the walls are marked by artillery fire.

Between the spring of 2020 and the capture of the village, 40 civilians were killed.

To avoid more deaths, the villagers collect unexploded ordnance and hide it in a vacant lot.

“We are doing it to protect the children,” says village elder Abdul Bari Arzoi.

No other way to survive

About 100 of the 800 families who lived in the mud houses in central Arzo did not return, Arzoi says.

Villagers also fear mines will remain buried in the fields they once depended on, despite a recent Taliban effort to clear them.

Many of the men who worked the fields left to seek work elsewhere. Cattle were also lost.

“We can no longer cultivate (crops) or use our livestock, they are gone now – there is no one left to take care of them and they had no water,” says Naqib Ahmad.

Having no reserves for the winter, some are trying to find daily labor on the neighboring sites of Ghazni, or in Pakistan and Iran.

But many cling only to the hope of government support or international aid.

“We have no other way to survive,” says Ahmad. “Many families have debts and they cannot repay them. “

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