Bakeries run by all-female Afghan staff reopen in Kabul, UN food agency says
Bakeries that will help more than 35,000 destitute and widowed women in Kabul reopened today after being closed for the past two months, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Thursday.
The 21 WFP bakeries, once again using an all-female Afghan staff, were a point of contention under the Taliban rule. In June of 2000, for example, three WFP female staff were arrested by the Taliban and jailed for three days for working with the bakeries.
According to WFP, one employee, Fauzia Aziz Niazi, was returning to Afghanistan today for the first time since leaving the country after her arrest.
"I am really interested in working with my own country, my own population again," said Ms. Niazi. "Under the Taliban, we were still working, but very secretly. At the beginning we were allowed, we had special permission, but then they made some troubles for us," she said, referring to the arrest.
The bakeries, with 320 female staff, produce bread on a daily basis for the must vulnerable populations in Kabul: the elderly, disabled, and widows. Each family is given a card that entitles them to purchase five loaves of bread per day - at a greatly reduced cost. While the price at a regular bakery for five loaves of bread is 6,600 Afghans (22 US cents), the WFP bakery cost is 1000 Afghans (3 US cents), an 85 per cent reduction.
The WFP bakeries became operational in Kabul in 1999 and are located in 10 of the 16 districts in Kabul.
In another development, WFP Executive Director Catherine Bertini told reporters in New York that the agency had broken its monthly record for food distribution inside Afghanistan by delivering 55,000 tonnes of wheat so far in December, against a goal of 52,000. "We believe so far we're reaching 5 million of the 6 million people that we have determined to be desperately in need of food throughout Afghanistan."
She also reported that WFP staff would welcome New York City firefighters and police officers arriving in Kabul tomorrow. "They will be delivering a cargo of food, blankets and other emergency supplies" which WFP would then distribute. "We hope this is a good example of the intensified humanitarian involvement of people throughout the world in support of the people of Afghanistan."