Reference : V-P-AF-E-02420
Date : 09/05/2016
Country/Region : AFGHANISTAN
Caption : Mazar-i-Sharif. ICRC micro-economic initiatives (MEI) program. Mohammad, a 24-year-old beneficiary, opened a little stall to sell scarves.
Photographer : MOECKLI, Olivier
Confidentiality level : public
Publication restrictions : publication without restrictions
Copyright : ICRC
Description : Mohammad was born and grew up in Waraz Ali, a small village of around 700 inhabitants in the mountainous district of Char Kint, around 50 kilometers south of Mazar. He was the second of nine children, he has four brothers and four sisters.
People in his village are farmers and cultivate wheat and peas. It’s a hilly region with little vegetation, due to a very harsh climate, alternating very cold winters and hot summers.
As a child, before he started going to school, he was taking care of the sheep in the hills around his village. One day, when he was seven, he and a friend were with the sheep next to an abandoned military checkpoint from the Afghan civil war of the early 90’s. Unexploded mortars had been left there. “We had seen people open the mortars and collect what was inside”, Baqir says. “We thought it was valuable and decided to do the same.” He took a mortar and tried to open it, but the mortar exploded.
Baqir woke up at Mazar hospital a month later and had lost both his forearms and an eye. His friend had been only slightly injured.
He spent five more weeks in the hospital, recovering, and when he could go back to his village, it was time for him to start school. But the return was hard. “I was feeling I was not the person I used to be”, he explains. “My favourite sport was volleyball and I used to play a lot, but that was not possible anymore. Also something as simple as going to the toilet and untie the belt of my pants became a big problem.”
After his accident, his father forbade him to go out of the house to play or walk around. As he was interested to study, he learnt to write with his stumps and started to dedicate a lot of time to studies. On top of school, he joined a madrassa (religious school).
He got married when he was 16 and got a son when he was 18. But he had increasing problems with his family and when he was 20, he left with his wife and child to live in Mazar. “I was planning to study Islamic theology at university”, he explains, “but I soon realized it was more difficult than I had thought.”
He had no money and it was out of question to study. “I had to sell my wife’s jewels to survive”, he explains, “but this did not last very long”. He started to sell phone cards in the streets. The business worked quite well, but he let many friends take cards from him after they promised they would pay later. But they never did and he soon found himself with 12,000 Afghanis (around 200 USD) of unpaid cards, which cancelled his profits.
He then met a man with a similar disability, who told him about the ICRC’s orthopaedic centre. “He told me they could give me artificial hands, so I went”, he says. “They gave them to me, but I realized I was more autonomous without them, so I don’t use them.”
One day, this friend mentioned the micro-credit program of the ICRC and he applied for a loan to start a small business. With the small loan he was offered, he decided to open a little stand to sell scarves.
“I am only able to make little money. I make between 200 and 250 Afghanis (3-4 USD) per day”, he says. “But it’s ok to pay for the rent of our room and the food.” Also, he has to work long hours to make enough money. He leaves home at 4am and opens his stand from 4.30 to 5pm.
Since he received the 20,000 Afghanis loan (around 320 USD) 11 months ago, he already paid back 14,000. He should finish to reimburse in a few months and is planning to apply for a bigger loan, hoping to have a bigger shop to raise his income.
“I am planning to open a real shop to sell electronic appliances”, he says.
Original material : digital
Resolution : 5858x3905
Orientation : landscape
Colour/B&W : colour