Children wait patiently to receive coats, blankets
and shoes. The initial contacts between the ANA
and the Afghan population are critical in forging
bonds of trust.
Kandahar, Afghanistan — Could you imagine living in a house with no electricity, no sewage an no heating systems? Now imagine that the walls of your house are of dried mud and the floor is nothing but sand. In winter, you’re lucky because the days are comfortable, with temperatures hovering between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius above freezing.
We try to make the Afghans understand that their country's soldiers are there for them and will support them, particularly with respect to security, when the need arises.
But when the sun goes down, the country’s desert climate makes itself felt. In fact, temperatures can dip to as low as minus 10 degrees Celsius at night. While this might not compare to a Canadian winter, it’s challenging for the Afghan people, who have few resources at their disposal.
Even with their warm clothes, Canadian soldiers are still affected by these fluctuations between day and night temperatures in Afghanistan. And if soldiers can feel these temperature swings, imagine how they affect Afghan children who have nothing to keep them warm.
Through their meetings with village heads, the Canadian Forces are aware of the needs of the Afghan population in their area of responsibility. The local people have trouble adapting to the winter weather, especially the children. Afghans sometimes have to swallow their pride and ask the Canadians for help.
“This is a request we often hear during the winter,” explains Lieutenant Philippe Manda from Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC).
At Forward Operating Base Sperwan Ghar, located west of Panjwayi District, the Coalition Forces have received 2,500 packages ready for distribution. Each package contains a child’s coat, a warm blanket and a pair of shoes.
The needs of each village are noted, and distribution is based on the number of children. You just have to see the children walking around barefoot to realize that these basic items are not luxuries; they’re making a real difference.
“This is a joint venture with the ANA,” notes Sergeant Sébastien Bédard, from the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment Battle Group. “We’re looking mainly at a partnership until the ANA is able to assume sole leadership on the ground.”
The goods are handed out under the authority of the Canadian soldiers, who do the planning and provide the security. They keep a lower profile when they go to villages where soldiers of the Afghan National Army (ANA) are handling the distribution process.
The Canadians understand the importance of initial contacts between the ANA and the Afghan population in earning the trust of Afghans. The goal is not only to help children but also to make Afghans realize that their country’s soldiers are there for them and will support them, particularly with respect to security, when the need arises.