Aftab Tariq Ihsan is Head of Program Development and Quality for War Child. Here he tells us his view of Afghanistan, War Child’s role in it and what his hopes for the future are.
Q: Being confronted by the violence that has been visited upon Afghanistan would be devastating for most populations but you were telling us earlier of the resilience of the Afghan people. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Whether it be the Soviet and Mujahidin era, or the post-9/11 era, I have seen it all – Afghans are the people I lived, ate and worked with for almost 30 years now. That is more than half of my life and almost all of my professional life. I learned a lot from my Afghan colleagues and communities and I tried to give back, but all along I developed a strong relationship and emotional bond with them. A bond that is hard to break. Afghan colleagues and communities have been very generous in contributing towards my growth both personally and professionally. While like sponges they were eager to absorb knowledge and always keen to use skills to change their way of doing things, they generously contributed to enhance my confidence, knowledge and skills. Whether faced with aerial strikes, bombings or an IDP (Internally Displaced Population) situation, like bees Afghans continue with their life. Children continue to go to schools, employees continue to go to work, new daycare centers for children come up, families continue to go shopping, shops remain open for business, businessmen continue to invest and it is common to see new buildings and shopping plazas coming up. I have also worked in Pakistan, Tajikistan, Sudan and Nepal, but nowhere have I seen such resilience among people to continue to survive and develop despite the insecure and complex environment – nowhere I have seen the passion, enthusiasm and love for their country as Afghans have.
Q: War Child has been in Afghanistan for many years but the program is growing at a great rate. Can you tell us briefly what do we do there?
War Child Canada has been implementing programs focused on access to justice for GBV survivors, juvenile justice, psychosocial assistance, child protection and empowering women through vocational training.
Q: What are the challenges managing that kind of a growth?
War Child has indeed seen a rapid and huge growth. Some challenges are:
- Continuing to do good programming, generating evidence on what worked for Afghan children and what did not. The need for stronger leadership to continue to represent War Child with government, ministries, donors and other stakeholders and continue to ensure that we are seen as a credible organization that does important work for Afghan children.
- The need for more monitoring and evaluation that has more female staff and a solid fool-proof remote monitoring system (there are places one cannot go when the security deteriorates).
- Conflict-proofing our programs, so that despite the security situation programs continue. Build the capacity of community based volunteers and staff – further embed the programming within communities.
Q: What can ordinary people in North America do to help?
What should we do so that North Americans do not forget Afghanistan? I fear that if Afghanistan falls off the public agenda, they will forget us and would not push their government to continue to fund and support Afghanistan. I think as War Child we need to continue to work with donors and also come up with a way to engage with North Americans directly through stories, case studies, visit universities, talk shows, etc.
Q: How do you see Afghanistan’s future?
Despite the internal forces and the negative effects of global politics, with a little support I see Afghans continuing to survive and do what is best for their families. I am optimistic a day will come when Afghans will push out the violent forces.
This interview first appeared in the 2016 Annual Report.
You can also listen to our interview with Chris Lowry on Afghanistan before the wars.