New Zealand aid worker staying in Afghanistan to help feed desperate population

A New Zealand aid worker living in Kabul says his desire to help feed the desperate Afghan people outweighs the risk of staying there.

Andrew Patterson says the New Zealand Government kept offering to evacuate him - but he couldn't bring himself to leave just yet.

It's not just political turmoil besieging Afghanistan, the country is also riddled with COVID-19 and experiencing a severe drought.

But Andrew Patterson, a Kiwi in Kabul, is "absolutely committed to staying".

And there's one reason the UN's World Food Programme and its Kiwi deputy director can do that.

"We are able to remain because we make sure we have an escape route if we need to," Patterson says.

Half a million people have been displaced by the conflict just this year alone. Fourteen million are struggling to find food and it's getting worse.

Drought is ruining crops and wheat prices are up 25 percent. Patterson says to get things done, he must deal directly with the Taliban.

"We deal with local commanders to make sure we're not getting caught as I said but we're also dealing with the higher levels of bureaucracy."

He lives in a compound only 600 metres from Kabul airport. It's a world away from his wife and two sons in Auckland.

"It's a sort of a lockdown of a different kind," he laughs. "No one's going to shoot you if you go for a walk."

Most of the gunfire lately has been from the Taliban celebrating their rapid takeover.

"Whatever goes up must come down, and they managed to kill 17 people just with celebratory fire," Patterson says.

The Kiwi aid worker has so far resisted all offers of rescue.

"I was contacted several times by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade asking me if I wanted to be rescued, and they said I should go to the airport, I should not go to the airport, I should run away from the airport because it was too dangerous," he says.

So it's no to the rescue, but there is something the Government could do for him.

"I replied 'please, I really don't need to be rescued but I would like a place in MIQ in December so I could see my family!' So if they rescued me, I'd have a place in MIQ but because I was doing a job trying to feed people, I couldn't have a place in MIQ," he says.

Doing important work a world away, but hoping home soil can be a reality sometime soon.