Meher grew up along the route of the famous Silk Road, which once made its way through his home country of Afghanistan. With no formal education, he became a farmer and did extra field work for others to support his family.
“I had no major complaints in life as life was simple and normal for me,” said Meher.
All too soon, Meher’s simple life felt the effects of the war and poverty in his country.
Afghanistan is no longer in our headlines every day, but the country is still in crisis.
- In the last year, humanitarian needs have tripled in Afghanistan with more than 24 million in the country requiring emergency assistance to survive, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA).
- Half of Afghanistan’s population is facing acute hunger with 9 million people already in a state of emergency food insecurity, the highest number in the world.
- Families like Meher’s are desperate for money as the country’s economy has collapsed and almost no cash is available.
Meher was blinded by war.
“During the first Taliban regime, I lost my one eye in active combat,” he said. “Yet I continued my normal life and somehow managed to provide for my family despite incurring severe injuries and loss of an eye.”
Meher lost his second eye during a more recent conflict.
“My whole world turned black, and miseries followed,” Meher told us.
After he recovered from his injuries, Meher’s family was displaced from their home and moved into a cramped settlement in Kabul that Meher calls “miserable.” The settlement doesn’t block out the bitter cold during winter and lacks proper sanitation and hygiene measures.
Meher’s injuries and other health complications left the family in considerable debt.
Medical debt can be an overwhelming obstacle for any family. For a displaced blind father who can no longer support his family in a country without a functioning economy, there is almost no way back.
The family lost one son to COVID-19, but felt they had no choice but to send their only other son to Iran to look for work. Meher says they haven’t heard much from the 16-year-old since he’s been away, and they still have four daughters to support.
Meher’s wife works as a house cleaner for others, but the family has turned to desperate measures to survive.
“Every day, people knock at my door and ask for money I owe them,” said Meher. “I have no other option and offered to sell my young daughter to clear the debts, but those people declined the offer and asked for cash.”
Doctors have told Meher that the damage to one of his eyes is repairable and he could gain sight in that eye again! Unfortunately, the cost of the surgery is so far out of reach that it’s not even a consideration for him.
A teenage boy sent away to earn money.
A little girl being offered to pay off debts.
A life-changing surgery shrugged off.
Whether it’s a war like Meher is experiencing in Afghanistan, a natural disaster, or another kind of emergency, the devastating effects of a crisis are multiplied by poverty. The worst of those effects are consistently felt by the most vulnerable.