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Rural Afghanistan

Challenges mount in Khewa

<span class=Children playing in Khewa. (Photo: Cassandra Nelson)"/>
Children playing in Khewa. (Photo: Cassandra Nelson)

Almost four years after the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, the rural, or farming areas of the country do not look very different. The people still live in homes made of mud bricks. There is no electricity. There is no running water or plumbing. There are no jobs. However, there is hope for improvement. Many things have changed since the Taliban government was removed from power.

Isra Udin, like many people from the small rural town of Khewa, thinks that the U.S.-led war has brought them peace, education and hope for a better future.

"The biggest change is in the education," says Isra Udin, 12 years. "It is open to the female now. Everyone can attend regular schools, not just religious schools. Before, boys could only study the Koran. Now I can study many important subjects."

But even though there have been improvements, serious problems still remain. They are problems that, if not solved, mayresult in new violence and affect basic human rights.

NEW PROBLEMS

One of the greatest challenges facing the people of rural Afghanistan is the shortage of jobs. Many farmers grow poppies, which are sold to other countries and made into illegal drugs. Poppies are one of the few crops that can grow in the dry region and provide enough profit to allow farmers to feed and support their families.

But that is changing. Last year President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, the United Nations, and many foreign governments, including the United States, put a lot of pressure on farmers to stop growing poppies. To convince the farmers, the international community and the Afghan government told the farmers they would receive money and new jobs.

Unfortunately, very few farmers have received any assistance, even though almost a year has passed since the promises were made.

The farmers who followed the law and did not grow poppies are facing financial problems. "The United Nations and the United States all promised to help us find other ways to earn a living, but the money and help never came," says Kalima Gul, a former poppy farmer. "This year many farmers have debts they cannot repay."

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