Protecting Communities: IOM’s Humanitarian Assistance Programme at Work

Date Published: 
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Gardez River winds through Afghanistan’s Paktia province, providing villages with a vital source of water for crops and livestock. During the heavy rains that hit Afghanistan every spring, however, floodwaters that can surge through the river pose a serious threat to the families that live on its banks.

Through the Humanitarian Assistance Programme (HAP), funded by the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), IOM has been helping families recover from devastating floods and other natural disasters, while at the same time working with communities to minimize the risk of these disasters.

Following a needs assessment with partners from the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) and the Paktia Directorate of Water management, IOM identified the riverside village of Kochi Khail as being particularly vulnerable to flooding. Over 100 families live in Kochi Khail, tending the village’s 40,000 square meters of farmland.

To help protect Kochi Khail’s homes and crops from flood damage, in April 2014 IOM began work on a 300-meter long gabion wall along the riverbank. Gabion walls are retaining structures filled with stacked stones, which can provide strong protection against floodwaters. Under the supervision of HAP engineering experts from Kabul, walls were built on both sides of river to both block and channel floodwater. Local laborers from Kochi Khail were employed during the construction process, helping to benefit the local economy.

Kochi Khail’s gabion walls were put to the test the following month, when days of heavy rainfall brought a rush of floodwater. The walls served their function perfectly, protecting Kochi Khail and two other neighboring villages as well as acres of agricultural land from the flood, despite the fact that it was one of the strongest floods that many residents could remember.

The residents of Kochi Khail have expressed their strong satisfaction with the walls. “In the past, all we could do if a flood was coming was to run to the mosque and try to warn people using the loudspeaker” a village elder told IOM. “Now we are not feeling any risk, as we could see the heavy waves of the flood were being defended by the wall.”

A strong need for disaster risk reduction projects exists in many parts of Afghanistan, and IOM is committed to working with its government partners to continue supporting vulnerable communities against natural disasters.

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