Afghanistan: Floods kill dozens, destroy hundreds of homes in northeast

News and Press Release
Originally published
FAIZABAD, 16 May 2007 (IRIN) - Flash floods and heavy rainfall have killed more than 24 people and damaged over 530 houses in several districts of the northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan, the country's Interior Ministry reported on Wednesday.

Flooding also inflicted serious agricultural damage and killed dozens of farm animals in the isolated and impoverished province.

"We call upon all national and international relief organisations to dispatch urgent humanitarian assistance to the victims of Tuesday's flash floods in Badakhshan," read a press release issued by the Interior Ministry.

Talking to IRIN on the phone from a flood-affected district of Baharak, a local resident, Gul Ahmad, said: "Everybody needs food. We have lost everything".

Four assessment teams, comprising provincial government officials and representatives from relief organisations, have been sent to the affected areas to determine immediate needs and assess aid delivery, Badakhshan's governor, Munshi Abdul Majid, told IRIN from the provincial capital of Faizabad.

"Prolonged assessments"

Local officials doubted a quick assessment could be carried out in rugged and inaccessible Badakhshan.

"People require urgent humanitarian assistance and I think we should not turn that into rocket science by having prolonged assessments. Obviously, after any disaster, people require food, medicine and shelter urgently - and that applies to people in Badakhshan as well," said Majid.

Earlier, in an exclusive interview with IRIN, the United Nations humanitarian affairs coordinator in Afghanistan, Ameerah Haq, defended the assessments, which, according to her, ensure efficiency and accountability.

Another Afghan official in Kabul agreed on the need for precise assessments in order to make clear what is needed, where and in what quantity. Nevertheless, Abdul Matin Edrak, the director of Afghanistan's National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA), said assessments should not add to the affected peoples' problems.

"I think we should have mechanisms which enable humanitarian actors to operate efficiently and in a timely fashion," Edrak said.

WFP to dispatch aid

In an effort to address these concerns the World Food Programme (WFP) is to dispatch 23.2 metric tonnes of food aid to some affected districts very soon, said Jamil Danish, a spokesman for the UN in Kabul.

Since December 2006, floods and avalanches have killed more than 50 people in Badakhashan province, according to governor Majid.

Afghanistan has suffered its worst natural disasters in 2007. In January and February, flooding and avalanches inflicted extensive destruction across many provinces of Afghanistan killing more than 100 people and damaging thousands of houses, ANDMA reported.

In July 2006, a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) mission called upon the government of Afghanistan and the UN to improve the country's feeble humanitarian response capacity. However, both the UN and the government of Afghanistan agree little has been done to assuage UNDAC's concerns.