German Help for Afghan's Amputee Bike
In a country fraught with land mines, a program supported by a German
aid group is helping amputees in Afghanistan find work as bike
messengers. Couriering packages around Kabul gives them a rare chance
to make a living.
Afghanistan is thought to have more land mines than any other country
in the world. The estimated 30 million mines are a dangerous legacy of
decades of war that have maimed approximately half a million people.
Those who have lost limbs because of the mines find it nearly
impossible to earn a living.
The German Development Service (DED), which is Germany's foreign
development aid agency, has partnered with the Afghan Amputee Bicyclist
for Rehabilitation and Recreation (AABRAR) organization to give
amputees in Kabul a chance to earn a living.
A man tries on an artifical leg at a center in KabulBildunterschrift:
Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Life as an
amputee is difficult in Afghanistan
Gone to run errands for his mother in Kabul, Qahar was 11 years old
when he stepped on a mine and lost both his legs. From then on, he was
considered a burden on his large family, since he couldn't earn money
to help his siblings. He sunk into a deep depression.
"I was mostly unhappy because I saw many people my age who could play
volleyball and soccer," Qahar said. "They went to school and to the
university. Sometimes I cried and my mother comforted me. She told me
that I should stop crying, that everything was in God's hands and that
this was my destiny."
Qahar is now 23 and wears prosthetics. He has found new hope with the
AABRAR, an Afghan non-governmental organization that gets financial
support from the DED. The organization offers war invalids something
that would normally be impossible in Afghanistan -- the chance to work
and be independent.
A land mine exploding in KabulBildunterschrift: Großansicht
des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: An estimated half million
people have been injured by land mines in Afghanistan
The organization opened Afghanistan's first bicycle messenger service
in Kabul in November of 2002, which exclusively employs people with
The DED and AABRAR came up with the idea while trying to think about
what kind of employment opportunities could be given to amputees, said
Andreas Schneider, the DED's regional director for Afghanistan and
The program employs 15 bicycle couriers. Formerly, these amputees would
have spent years sitting at home without jobs. Now, in a normal day
they deliver letters, packages and merchandise around the clock through
the streets of Kabul. They wear protective masks because of pollution
problems in the city, which has a million inhabitants. They also wear
helmets and have specially-designed bicycles.
"These are essentially specially-developed bicycles," Schneider said.
"You could say they're a type of mountain bike that are designed so
that they can be ridden with a prosthesis."
A man bikes by an American soldier Bildunterschrift:
Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Biking
Qahar has worked as a bicycle messenger for five years. He brings home
approximately 70 euros ($95) a month. Qahar has also participated in
international competitions for bicycle messengers, competing against
those without disabilities. He said he's thankful he found this work,
but he knows that other Afghans are less fortunate.
"In Afghanistan there are more than 300,000 disabled people and none of
them have jobs," Qahar said. "Our neighbor boy who's 12 or 13 years old
has just lost his legs. He can't work and also doesn't have money to go
to school and get an education."
International organizations in Kabul use the bicycle messenger service.
Local businesses have been more reluctant, although the service is
relatively cheap. Delivering a pizza, package or letter costs 25
Afghani, approximately 50 euro cents. Until the project can become
self-sufficient, the DED will continue to help out financially. The
program hopes to help more people like Qahar get a chance at a new
start on life.