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Poverty in Helmand

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Afghanistan, Humanitarian

Garmsir bazaar, June 2008 - click for bigger image

Three months ago, the bazaar in Garmsir, southern Helmand, stood empty.  Stalls were bare; some were shuttered, others all but derelict.  Fighting between the insurgents and the Afghan and international forces meant the population had left the district centre, leaving behind a ghost town.  Insecurity was limiting people's opportunities: business people couldn't trade.

Garmsir bazaar is one small example of the scale of the difficulties Helmand faces.  Afghanistan as a whole is the fifth poorest country in the world.  Helmand is one of the least secure parts of the country.  And insecurity breeds poverty.

Today is Blog Action Day, a day when bloggers around the world are encouraged to write about a particular subject.  This year, that subject is poverty.

Poverty is a problem for Helmand, but is inextricably linked to security.  Every Helmandi I've spoken to has told me that security is their number one concern.  Without security, Helmandis can't send their children to school, their sick to hospital or their goods to market.  If security doesn't improve, poverty reduction and development are inhibited.  And without reduced poverty and increased opportunities for the people of Helmand, improved security remains elusive.

That is why DFID is working in Helmand, alongside and as part of the UK and international, civilian and military team.  While the short-term goal of this team is to improve security and stabilise the province, and development is impossible without the achievement of this goal, it's no good 'winning' in the short term only to 'lose' in the long run.  If we don't work now to reduce poverty in Helmand, we risk a return to insecurity in the future.

Garmsir bazaar, September 2008 - click for bigger image

Garmsir is now bustling once again.  The district centre has been secured, people are returning, and lives have been picked up again from where they left off.  To ensure this improvement endures, we are now working with the local people to refurbish the bazaar and provide it with streetlights, rebuild the irrigation system and rehabilitate and restock the school and hospital.  The vicious cycle that led to the abandonment of Garmsir in the spring has been turned into - and now needs to remain - a virtuous circle of security driving development driving security.

You can read more about Garmsir in an article in the Independent from August 2008.

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  1. Comment by A day for poverty « andrewlewin: let me think about that … posted on

    [...] their new DFID Bloggers section up and running in time to join in with today’s’ post on Poverty in Helmand. Likewise, FCO Bloggers has an entry from Britain’s Embassy in Moscow on how Russia is [...]

  2. Comment by Pete posted on

    Hi Vicky,

    Excellent blog - it's interesting to read about the real situation in Helmand and it's encouraging that, despite all the security issues, it is possible for you to talk directly with Helmandis and get a sense of what they feel about the situation. I imagine that real, sustainable change is going to take a long time to achieve and hope that those with power and influence in the world remain committed to improving the lives of Afghanis, who have suffered so much over the last 30 (or more?) years.

    Stay safe, Pete

  3. Comment by Helen posted on

    Hello Vicky,

    What an asset you are to the improving development in Afghanistan. Your blog is informative and objective yet I can clearly hear the immense passion you have for the work you are doing in Helmand. If some of the hyperbole that appears in our national newspapers (and I'm speaking for Australian newspapers) could be replaced by your kind of writing - the rest of us would get a clearer understanding of the terrific work our governments are doing in a very difficult part of the world.

    Look after yourself Vicky, Helen xx

  4. Comment by ken posted on

    Hi Vicky, good blog! Met with Andy Mac of the Human Security Report Project yesterday and he mentioned their Afghanistan Conflict monmitor - you may already be aware of course...



  5. Comment by cheritycall posted on

    Hello, Give something to help the hungry people in Africa or India,
    I created this blog about this subject: