Zaker Hussain Zaheri was one of the thousand people who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was a cook in Afghanistan's capital but he lost his job in early in March. Now, he digs trenches to capture rainwater and snowmelt on a mountain on the outskirts of Kabul, as the city grapples with both a water and a severe health crisis.
The governmental lockdown measures to curb the spread of the disease have taken their toll on Afghanistan's economy, so the government is employing more than 40,000 jobless workers to rehabilitate groundwater supplies for its fast-growing capital.
"This is a tough job, but I have to do it to earn some money to buy food, and I am proud that I take part in the reconstruction of my country, this is good for the future of our nation," Zaheri, 28, declared.
Afghan labourers work on trenches on a hill to help improve the city's water supply, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan. Image credit Reuters, Mohammad Ismail reuters_tickers
Planned to run for at least a year with twelve billion Afghanis ($155 million) in funding, the Kabul water project is paying labourers at least 300 afghanis ($3.90) per day to dig close to 150,000 trenches, as well as 17 small dams and spillways, on the outskirts of the mountainous Afghan capital.
Kabul's groundwater supplies - its primary source of drinking water - have been over-exploited, putting the city of up to seven million people at risk of severe shortages, experts explained.
Afghanistan has joined a growing global trend of countries, including neighbouring Pakistan, turning to "green stimulus" projects to address two urgent challenges at once: firstly, keeping the economy running through the pandemic and secondly, tackling the effects of climate change.
Image credit Your NEWS
After work Zaheri comes back home where he drinks some tea and eats the bread he was able to buy with his seven children. His eldest daughter Laila, 10, said she appreciated her father taking risks in going to work on a mountain in the middle of a pandemic.
"Rich people don't do this, they stay at their homes at this juncture, but my father no, he goes out and works hard to feed us," she claimed.