'I Have Nothing Left': Flooding Adds to Afghanistan's Crises 「一無所有」：洪災惡化阿富汗危機
文/Yaqoob Akbary, Christina Gol
As heavy rains poured down on his village in eastern Afghanistan around 11 a.m. Monday, Meya, a 57-year-old farmer, gathered his wife and daughters and rushed from their small home toward the safety of the mountains. Looking back, he saw a thunderous wave of water tearing through the village — and his wife being swept away in the storm.
"At that moment I completely lost control," said Meya, who goes by one name.
Days later, as he and his neighbors salvaged what they could from the wreckage, Meya stared at his destroyed village in dismay. His wife had drowned. His house was destroyed. His two cows and three goats were killed. His jewelry and all of his cash — around $400 — were washed away in the flood.
Over the past week, flash floods across eastern, central and southern Afghanistan have killed at least 43 people and injured 106 more, according to Mohammad Nasim Haqqani, a spokesperson for Afghanistan's Ministry of Disaster Management.
The floods' toll, local officials say, is likely to rise as more bodies are discovered. Around 790 homes have been damaged or destroyed in the flooding, which has affected nearly 4,000 families, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The flooding offered the latest blow to Afghanistan, which has been seized by an economic collapse and a spate of natural disasters and deadly terrorist attacks in recent months.
Around half the country's 39 million people are facing life-threatening food insecurity, according to the United Nations. An earthquake in June in eastern Afghanistan killed around 1,000 people and destroyed the homes of thousands more. The latest terrorist attack — on a mosque in the capital, Kabul, on Wednesday — killed at least 21 people and wounded 33 others, officials said.
The back-to-back crises have tested the Taliban's ability to provide security and badly needed emergency assistance even as their government slides further into pariah state status. The Taliban's decision to close girls' secondary schools indefinitely in March, and the public revelation earlier this month that the Taliban had been sheltering al-Qaida's leader in Kabul, have increasingly alienated the country from Western donors despite the worsening humanitarian crisis.
Philippines Returns to School, Ending One of World's Longest Shutdowns 歷經2年封校 菲律賓總算開學了
Millions of students throughout the Philippines headed to school Monday as in-person classes began to fully restart for the first time in more than two years, ending one of the world's longest pandemic-related shutdowns in a school system already plagued by severe underinvestment.
"We could no longer afford to delay the education of young Filipinos," said Vice President Sara Duterte, who is also the education secretary, as she toured schools in the town of Dinalupihan, about 40 miles northwest of Manila.
Even before the pandemic, the Philippines had among the world's largest education gaps, with more than 90% of students unable to read and comprehend simple texts by age 10, according to the World Bank.
Schools in the Philippines have long suffered from shortages of classrooms and teachers, whose pay is low, leaving the vast numbers of poor children who cannot afford private schools and rely on the public system with inadequate teaching.
Now, after losing more than two years of in-person instruction, schools face the challenge of educating many students who have fallen even further behind. Although the Philippines offered online instruction during the pandemic, many students lacked access to computers or internet connections, and overburdened parents often found it hard to keep tabs on their children's remote learning.
In some cases, students' already tenuous connection to school may have been severed entirely after so long away.
In many other countries, as the negative effects of online learning became well documented, governments elected to send children back to classrooms even as the coronavirus continued to circulate widely.
But in the Philippines, government officials and parents remained hesitant, with fears that schoolchildren could bring the virus to homes crowded with multiple generations of family members, potentially overtaxing a creaky health care system.
Starting in late 2021, the government began to experiment with conducting in-person classes in about 300 schools, but has begun expanding it to cover all primary and secondary schools. Currently only some schools are in-person all five weekdays; by November, all of the country's roughly 47,000 schools will be.