Fostering Resilience: In the Midst of Chaos, a Father Reinvents Himself

Using the oven he built himself, Azmaray is making homemade flatbread for Barmal residents.
IOM/Léo Torréton

It’s nighttime in Barmal—one of the villages most affected by the shattering earthquake that hit Afghanistan’s Paktika province in June 2022.

Winter can be felt a little more with each passing day. The glow of a makeshift fire lights up the surrounding rubble while the smell of hot bread wafts through the recently built shelters, close to what used to be a camp for humanitarian workers, which provided assistance to those affected by the earthquake.

As night descends, 57-year-old Azmaray huddles over the fire to warm his hands. “These will be the last flatbreads I make and sell before I go back to driving,” he explains. With the closure of the temporary camp, Azmaray’s business recently started to dwindle, so he has decided to leave Paktika in search of new business opportunities.

Abdullah Jan, one of Azmaray’s employees and close friends, comes to lend a hand with making the bakery’s last batch of flatbread.
IOM/Léo Torréton

Azmaray knows Barmal well; he was born and raised here. “In August 2021, I lost my only source of income and had no more means to put food on the table for my family,” Azmaray recalls.

Like many other Afghans who have lost their jobs and livelihoods, Azmaray decided to go to Pakistan to seek new work opportunities, where he spent a few months before returning to Afghanistan. Back home, he took out a loan, bought a car, and started working as a driver, helping people travel between nearby provinces.

“One night, when I was working as an independent driver, I took the employees of an organization from Argon to Barmal. That night, we couldn’t find anything for dinner, so I went back to my tent and fell asleep on an empty stomach.”

Following the earthquake in 2022, Azmaray decided to open a bakery which could help him make a living but also benefit the earthquake-affected community.
IOM/Léo Torréton

Following the earthquake in 2022, most of the region’s crops were destroyed and food supplies became scarce. To cope with the situation, the humanitarian community distributed emergency aid, including tents and non-food items to vulnerable families and a temporary camp was soon established to accommodate humanitarian workers.

Seeing the urgent needs on the ground, Azmaray saw an opportunity: he could make a living that would also benefit the earthquake-affected community.

I thought it would be a good idea to open a bakery right here in Barmal, to make fresh bread that I could sell to the residents and earn some money for my family.

Every evening, Azmaray’s bakery became an opportunity for humanitarians and residents to meet and talk as they waited around the warm oven for their flatbread to be ready. Stopping by the bakery soon became somewhat of a rite of passage for people passing through the area as well as for the inhabitants.

The temporary camp closed soon after the emergency shelter response was implemented, which provided shelter kits, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services, and health support.

“While the camp was still open, we made about 480 flatbreads each day. Humanitarian organizations, authorities, and residents alike used to buy their bread from us. We had about 10 people working here with us,” he says.

“Our current situation forces us to constantly move in search of new ways to meet our needs, but we are now used to reinventing ourselves.”

This story was written by Léo Torréton, Media and Communications Officer with IOM Afghanistan,