A day in the life of a surveyor assessing those most in need of post-earthquake assistance in Afghanistan


The aftermath of the earthquakes is visible in many villages of Zindajan District in Herat Province. Photo: UN Women/Sayed Habib Bidell

On 6 November 2023, UN Women’s survey team started interviewing 2,500 families in a village in Herat, one of those hardest-hit by the series of earthquakes in October. Based on the survey’s findings, 550 women heads of household in her village received cash assistance from UN Women. Arefa, one of the surveyors who went from house to house to collect information about the needs of affected families, met many women in need but there is one in particular that she will never forget.

“It was around 2 PM in the afternoon when I learned that an elderly lady, living alone, had been waiting in front of her door for hours under the rain for us.

When I realized that she had been waiting in the cold and rainy weather for more than six hours since early morning for our team to speak with her, I felt deeply upset. I wondered why we had kept her waiting so long. If I had known, I would have gone to her house first thing in the morning.

Sayeeda, the old lady, was extreforgetmely hopeless and distressed because she had not received any assistance from any organization so far, and there was no food in her house. I said goodbye, but her image remained in my mind, and I envisioned her every moment.

Later, I saw Sayeeda again when the distribution of our cash assistance began. The beneficiaries gathered at the distribution site, and one by one, they received their assistance. I was happy that she had been informed and had come to receive her aid.

When she saw me there, she couldn’t control herself and began to cry. After a few minutes, when she calmed down, she said, ‘Today, for the first time, I am receiving assistance, and I am infinitely happy that I can have supplies for winter and not go to bed hungry.’

When I asked her how she felt about receiving this money, she smiled, kissed my forehead and said: ‘I am so happy that Allah knows I was awake from last night until this morning, praying for you’.

I am immensely pleased that Sayeeda has been able to receive support for the first time. I am relieved, despite all the fatigue of these days, and I am happy that I could be the means for her to receive help. This will be one of the best memories and days of my life, and it will always remain in my mind.”