BUREAU FOR DEMOCRACY, CONFLICT, AND HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE (DCHA)
OFFICE OF U.S. FOREIGN DISASTER ASSISTANCE (OFDA)
Note: This Situation Report updates previous Central Asia Situation Reports released in FY 2001 and FY 2002. New information is italicized.
Two decades of war in Afghanistan, including a decade-long Soviet occupation and ensuing civil strife, left Afghanistan impoverished and mired in an extended humanitarian crisis. A devastating four-year regional drought compounded the crisis, drying up wells, parching agricultural land, killing off livestock, collapsing rural economies, and eventually exhausting the coping mechanisms of many ordinary Afghans, forcing them to leave their homes in search of food and water. International relief agencies, with support from the United States (U.S.), have long been active in providing humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, even during the restrictive years of the Taliban. The U.S. Agency for International Development's Disaster Assistance Response Team (USAID/DART) began its emergency coordination work in response to the regional drought in June 2001. USAID/OFDA continues to assess the humanitarian needs of vulnerable Afghans, and to monitor the relief programs of its implementing partners.
Afghanistan: Numbers at a Glance
Total population (CIA Factbook): 26,813,057
Voluntary Assisted Refugee Returns (UNHCR)
Pakistan (March 1 - Dec. 31): 1,532,000
Iran (April 9 - Dec. 31): 261,000
Central Asian states (March 1 - Dec. 31):10,000
Pakistan (Jan. 1 - March 3): 2,705
Iran (Jan. 1 - March 3): 6,072
Old Caseload Refugees as of Dec. 2002 (UNHCR)
Pakistan and Iran: 3,500,000
Internally Displaced (UNHCR)
Estimated caseload as of Dec. 2002: 724,000
North and west: 117,000
Center and east: 194,000
Internally Displaced Returns Since Jan. 1, 2002 (IOM)
Total as of Dec. 2002 (vol. assisted):
Total since Dec. 2001 (spontaneous)400,000
FY 2001 - 2003 U.S. Government Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan*: $780,950,886
Overview - Factional infighting and criminal activity continued to affect humanitarian operations throughout the country, which has led to the suspension of various United Nations (U.N.) missions. Many of the winter preparedness efforts have been completed, but there are still some ongoing activities to assist the most vulnerable Afghans and help with snow clearance. Heavy snow caused the longest closure this year of the Salang Tunnel, and there have been other access problems in the central and northeastern areas of the country. WFP expects to have sufficient cereals to cover its requirements through late June 2003. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the three deaths from meningitis in Takhar Province in mid-February are isolated cases.
Political/Military - The command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which provides security in Kabul, changed hands on February 10 when Germany and the Netherlands formally took over the leadership from Turkey.
Coalition forces, in cooperation with the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA) established the first Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Gardez, Paktia Province on February 2. The PRT will strengthen the presence of the central government, improve security, and facilitate the delivery of reconstruction assistance. The team plans to move toward the east and position from Baghlan to Badakshan. Similar teams will be established in other major Afghan cities over the next several months.
Security - The security situation remained tense in many parts of the country as factional fighting resumed in some areas. In addition, incidents of banditry and violence have continued and many times were aimed at humanitarian operations. For example, on February 28, a U.N. convoy was attacked on the route between Wazakhan and Khairkot in Paktia Province, and another U.N. convoy was robbed at gunpoint in Wardak Province on March 7. In addition, the U.N. has issued a security advisory, warning of the possible kidnapping of staff members in the east and in Kabul.
Tensions have increased in Mazar-e-Sharif, and Khost, Faryab, and Parwan Provinces due to inter-factional conflicts. In Maimana, the disarmament process, which was on hold, made the area and the road to Qala-I Naw particularly unstable. Due to tensions in Faizabad, Sar-i-Pul, and the districts southeast of Qalat in Zabul Province, the U.N. has temporarily suspended missions. In addition travel between Kandahar and Rambasi in Dand district has been temporarily halted due to a recent explosion and attack on civilian and military vehicles. Fighting between TISA forces and local commanders has led to the temporary suspension of missions to Uruzgan through Shah Wali Kot. Also reports of regrouping of the Taliban in Ghor Province, especially in Taiwara and Passaband, have raised security concerns for travel through these areas.
The situation in Farah has remained relatively calm after an attack in early February on a U.N. demining team, and U.N. missions have been assisted by the Governor of Farah's assurance of their safety. In the West, U.N. missions to Bala Murghab and Ghormach are resuming on a case-by-case basis since the situation has slightly improved as the number of security incidents have decreased over the past few weeks.
Criminal incidents still continue to be on the rise throughout parts of the country. The U.N. has recommended that night travel be avoided in the central area, particularly in Logar and Wardak Provinces, since there has been an increase in road banditry after dark, and missions have been advised to remain vigilant in Badghis. There have been various reports of robberies and attacks on international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and U.N. agencies. For example, thieves broke into a U.N. agency's office in Kabul two times, stealing a large amount of equipment. Also explosive devises were launched at an international NGO on February 18 in Kunduz City and a U.N. agency in Jalalabad on March 5.
As a result of the increase in security concerns in Afghanistan, the U.N. Security Coordinator is preparing a national security incident database that will contain factual information on security occurrences in every region. The database will allow for a quantitative assessment of the security situation in the country. Already one international NGO has suspended operations in parts of southern Afghanistan due to security concerns.
Attacks on Coalition forces continued along the eastern border of Pakistan, especially in Kunar and Nangahar Provinces. In addition, besides the Coalition operations, the poppy eradication campaign and the mix of inter-factional politics and ethnic divisions has increased volatility in the east.
Winter Preparation - Since the end of winter is approaching, many of the Winter Preparedness Plan activities, such as prepositioning materials, have been completed. However, there are still some ongoing activities to assist the most vulnerable Afghans, particularly in inaccessible areas. The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan is working to ensure that new identified gaps of vulnerable groups in Kabul City receive winter assistance. Also, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has completed the identification of beneficiaries in the east and a total of 2,531 families have been identified as needing winter assistance. The distribution of non-food items in Nangahar and Laghman Provinces has nearly concluded. In addition, UNHCR has distributed other needed winter packages in Kabul and in the West and North. In the urban areas of Herat, winter programs are expected to be completed this month.
The U.N. is currently completing a survey in 12 urban areas of Afghanistan, including Kabul, to determine the effectiveness of the winterization program. Preliminary findings show that there was a positive response to cash-for-work programs.
Work is ongoing by the Ministry of Public Works (MPW), UNJLC, and the U.N. Office of Project Services (UNOPS) to coordinate cash-for-work emergency road repair, snow clearance, and equipment maintenance at base camps and hubs around the country. More than 120 roads have been identified as needing to be repaired and kept open during the winter. The MPW and USAID/OFDA grantee ACTED are working to keep the Salang Tunnel and its approaches free of snow. Due to heavy snowfall, the tunnel was closed for over a week during mid-February, the longest closure this year, and was again closed between March 1 and March 5.
According to UNJLC, harsh winter weather conditions have hindered several missions' travel in the central and northeastern areas while weather conditions in the west have been more mild. The road from Mainama to Almar-Qaisar was reportedly blocked from snow, but the route from Maimana to Bilchiragh remained open but muddy.
In the central highlands, the Hajikak Pass and the Molla Yaqub Pass were temporarily closed due to heavy snow accumulation. The Nili-Daikondi and Jawz-Nilli stretches have been blocked along with the mountain passes of Chapalak, Bande Kosa, Barlan, Spezarak, Korak, and the eastern part of Qunag. There have been reports that the Shatu Pass is open from Yakwalang to the top of the Pass but it remains closed from the top to the Panjab side. Large avalanches have made travel almost nearly impossible to reach Lal from the east despite efforts to clear the route. The main road from Kunduz to Pul-I Khumri has been damaged and is need of repair.
WFP has pre-positioned 53,754 metric tons (MT) of food assistance throughout the country in winter inaccessible areas to help meet the needs of 1.3 million rural Afghans. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has pre-positioned an additional 24,667 MT of food in the central highlands, primarily in Ghor Province. Food distributions to end beneficiaries have been completed by ICRC and are 84 percent completed by WFP, with the balance to be distributed over the next few weeks.
Food Aid and Agriculture - WFP reports that it will have sufficient cereals to cover its requirements through late June 2003, following the most recent contribution by USAID. After this date, 48,500 MT of cereal and 7,800 MT of vegetable oil, 1,600 MT of wheat soy blend, and 800 MT of iodized salt will be needed in new contributions to cover projected shortfalls through September 2003. Food distributions continue, but winter weather and security incidents have hampered some distribution efforts.
Due to heavy rains in the south, the irrigation dam in Bahla has water for the first time in four years, which will help with agricultural production in five districts. In addition, the northern provinces of Kunduz and Baghlan and eastern Nangahar received needed rainfall for the country's wheat production. However, more rain is still needed to increase moisture reserves for winter crops and restore irrigation supplies. The rains have improved agricultural prospects, but the flash flooding in Kandahar Province killed three children.
IDPs and Refugees - Since the beginning of 2003, more than 8,800 Afghan refugees have been assisted in returning home through the joint UNHCR and TISA voluntary repatriation program. Nearly 6,100 Afghans have voluntarily returned from Iran, while more than 2,700 Afghans have chosen to return home from Pakistan.
UNHCR began the 2003 repatriation assistance program on March 2. UNHCR plans to assist 1.2 million refugees and 300,000 IDPs during the coming year despite some concerns that Afghanistan's weak infrastructure might not support this many returns. On February 28, at the first meeting of Afghanistan's Return Commission, opened by the head of UNHCR , senior officials from northern Afghanistan's main political and ethnic factions agreed to improve security and work to end ethnic tensions, which would significantly help repatriation efforts.
In February, over 3,500 people returned home from the Maslakh and Shaidayee IDP camps in Herat. The majority of IDPs returned to Badghis Province.
Health. According to WHO, three children died in Chahab District in the northern province of Takhar from meningitis in mid-February. WHO sent a team to investigate the deaths, along with two cases of pneumonia, and found that they appeared to be isolated cases.
The U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) along with WHO, the Afghan Ministry of Health, and NGO partners launched a week-long campaign at the beginning of February to immunize Afghan women against tetanus in an effort to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus by 2005. The first of three campaigns to be held over the year targeted 740,000 women in the cities of Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad, and Mazar.
USG HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE
Background - On October 4, 2001, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Christina B. Rocca redeclared a complex humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan for FY 2002. To date, FY 2001 and FY 2002 USG humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan has been provided by USAID/OFDA, Food for Peace (USAID/FFP), Democracy & Governance (USAID/DG), Office of Transition Initiatives (USAID/OTI), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (State/PRM), State's Humanitarian Demining Program (State/HDP), State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (State/INL), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
New Actions - USAID/FFP provided WFP with an additional 20,000 MT of P.L. 480 Title II wheat and 3,300 MT of vegetable oil, valued at $13,049,800.
As part of its ongoing activities, USAID/OTI has provided approximately $290,000 in funding for the purchase and training of CODAN radio sets for all Afghan Ministries of Communications in the 31 provinces. The radios will allow for the first reliable method of communication between different parts of the TISA.
State/PRM is providing $21 million to UNHCR for its refugee assistance and protection program that will benefit Afghan refugees returning home as well as those in Pakistan, Iran, and other parts of Central Asia.
State/PRM is providing $1.35 million to Shelter for Life (SFL) to support shelter and winterization activities for returnees, IDPs, and other vulnerable people in Kabul City, and in Takhar and Kunduz Provinces.
State/PRM is providing $1 million to the U.N. Development Program for the countrywide Afghan Conservation Corps project.
State/PRM is providing $150,000 to the Community Housing Foundation for winterization assistance for returnee families in Kabul City.
New Actions - USAID/OFDA has provided an additional $448,138 to SFL to provide kerosene fuel in Herat and Kandahar Provinces.
USAID/OFDA has provided $1,579,694 to Air Serv International for countrywide air transport services.
(pdf* format - 71 KB)
USAID/OFDA situation reports and fact sheets can be obtained from the USAID web site at http://www.usaid.gov/hum_response/ofda/situation.html