Afghanistan + 4 more

Afghanistan humanitarian update 01- 30 Apr 2002

Format
Situation Report
Source
Posted
Originally published


GENERAL SITUATION
The rains in the north and west are bringing optimism in the agricultural sector after three years of drought. The rains, however, also bring with them flooding, landslides, and consequently a further threat to food security. Irrigated fields, for example with channels that have not been cleared can easily flood. Humanitarian operations have already been temporarily held up, this month, due to the flooding. In the northeast, for example, some major roads have become impassable limiting access to the most vulnerable people.

The launch of the Poppy Eradication campaign has engendered protests in the main growing areas of the east and south, erupting on several occasions in significant fighting and deaths. Security is an issue in those areas and access for operational agencies restricted. Recognising the threat to livelihoods related to this campaign, however, particularly for the labourers who have not benefited from the cash handouts to landlords for the destruction of harvests, the Interim Authority are providing substantial funds for labour-intensive quick impact projects in key areas. The assistance community is acting quickly to identify suitable projects that will try and reverse the dependence on this lucrative crop.

The facilitated return programme for IDPs and refugees is continuing apace and has now been expanded to cover returnees from Iran as well as Pakistan. Ensuring that the rural areas absorb the majority of these returnees is a current high priority as the cities are unable to cater for additional arrivals attracted by the economic opportunities that may not yet exist in their places of origin. To better identify the priority needs in the rural areas, a comparative vulnerability mapping exercise is ongoing with a view to better target assistance. This will be tied in with the data on returns as well as the results of other surveys, particularly those relating to food security and food aid needs.

SECURITY/ACCESS

There have been several events across the country that indicates a deterioration of the security situation. The killing of a UN staff member in Mazar, the fighting in parts of the southwest, north and east, plus the disturbances related to the Poppy Eradication campaign in the south and east and attacks on ISAF in Kabul illustrate a negative trend in the months in the lead up to the Loya Jirga. On a positive note the circular route around the country is now open for UN travel, following the opening of the Kandahar-Herat road, although restrictions at the Salang tunnel continue. WFP helicopters will discontinue humanitarian operations at the end of May.

The UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) should have started flights from Kabul to the rest of the country, as of 1st May. Operational constraints, however, mean that these flights have been delayed for a further 10-15 days.

NORTH. The build up of military hardware and men plus the increased tension between the Jumbesh and Jamiat factions, as anticipated, erupted 30th April, in serious fighting around Sari-Pul, which could spread further.

A senior FAO national staff member was murdered in Mazar on 10th April. A suspect has been apprehended but due to the factionalism in the area, the situation remains difficult to resolve. This is the latest in a series of attacks against UN national staff and NGOs in the region, and follows the intimidation and beating of a UN driver on 5th April. This staff member has since been evacuated. As the Loya Jirga approaches tensions in the region are again increasing and the insecurity is increasing. The police have confirmed that criminality is on the increase with 20 incidents reported in March compared with 9 reported in March. Of particular note is the increase in the number of kidnappings.

A truck being used to deliver humanitarian assistance in Nahrin hit a landmine. The truck absorbed the impact and this saved the lives of the four passengers who escaped with minor injuries.

NORTHEAST. Criminality in Faizabad has reportedly increased over the past few months. A staff member of an International Organisation was injured in a shooting incident on 5th April in Faizabad. The UN is following up with the local authorities so that the perpetrator is brought to justice.

During the start of April two landslides blocked the road between Faizabad and Rustaq district. The road has now been cleared. More landslides may be expected in the region, however, as the rainy season has started. Melting snow compounded by heavy rain in the region has worsened road conditions between Faizabad and Taloqan, but FFW is being used to clear this route. Road clearing work to link Faizabad with Sharibuzurg district centre where the population is seriously affected by drought is progressing steadily. The road passage will provide access to a targeted 6,500 families for the first time.

SOUTH: There has been inter-factional fighting in the Zaranj area in Nimroz Province in the Southwest. All UN activity was suspended but staff have now returned to resume operations. For a second time in a month, a vehicle has struck an anti-tank mine close to Kandahar airport where the US forces are stationed. One death was reported and two passengers were severely injured. A US soldier sustained injuries following a shooting in the Kandahar bazaar.

The security situation in the south was stabilizing, but has been seriously affected by the Poppy Eradication campaign, with local warlords actively rebelling against the destruction of their primary source of revenue. Tensions are reported in Helmand and Uruzgan. In addition to the deaths as a result of fighting in Helmand, four local police officers were killed in Tirin Kot, capital of Uruzgan.

The situation is volatile in Qalat, Zabul Province, following fighting that broke out between local and Kabul appointed authorities. There is also tension over the decision to be made regarding the proposed new capital of Nimroz (either Zaranj or the new city Ghor Ghori). On the southern and south-western borders, mines are still a major problem affecting access.

EAST. Tension is reported in Jalalabad city, following the change in the local administration and the attempted assassination attempt on the Defence Minister, 8th April. The vehicle convoy was untouched by the explosion, but 6 onlookers were killed, 18 injured and subsequently over 100 people were treated for injuries in a panic-induced stampede. Poppy growers and their associates blocked the Jalalabad - Torkham road from 7th April to protest the eradication campaign, disrupting activity and movement of all UN vehicles and convoys. Several food distributions and deliveries were suspended. An unknown number of protesters are reported to have been killed and injured in the clashes in Shin war district, and on the road. The provinces north and South of the Jalalabad road (Nangarhar and Kunar) are tense and have reportedly large groups of aggressive and heavily armed men. Crime and insecurity is reportedly on the increase in the city and there was a clash, 22nd April between local commanders. Missions to Jalalabad were temporarily suspended, 24th April due to reported unrest on the Peshawar-Jalalabad road.

In Laghman Province, a group of nomadic Kuchis were attacked/assaulted, 13th April, in Qarghahi, Laghman. All UN missions in Alinga district of Laghman were on hold, following reports of a group of armed men and fighting broke out in the provincial capital of Mehterlam which last three days. The UN has been advised by the IA to use military escorts when travelling in the vicinity of Sarobi. Fighting has taken place around Mehterlam and in Gardez, rockets and small arms are being utilised. Kunar and Laghman are politically tense with different factions controlling different areas. In Paktia, local commanders are reported to be trying to gain greater control of the area and tension is reported high due to possible Al Qaeda and Taliban presence.

"Night notes" have been circulated in the east, the first putting a bounty on a dead or alive westerner and the second calling for a Jihad against the western occupiers.

A large consignment of arms and ammunition has been seized at the Torkham-Khyber Pass border post.

CENTRAL. A vehicle belonging to an NGO was stopped and taken by local troops at dawn on 1st April and later in the month another NGO vehicle was held up in fighting in Ghazni. In addition, on 12th April, on the road to Ghazni at Sheikabad (about 70 km from Kabul) a UN road mission was temporarily held up by demonstrators who were not allowing traffic to pass. Clashes in this area mean that UN staff need armed escorts.

Both ISAF and the US have come under fire on several occasions in the past weeks. A rocket attack against an ISAF base occurred on Sunday 7th April but detonated harmlessly. This could be a demonstration of resentment against ISAF presence, or disenchantment at the effectiveness of ISAF operations, which have seriously affected criminal activities. Others speculate that it is an attempt to de-stabilize the security situation prior to the Loya Jirga. An apparent plot to sabotage the IA was uncovered and numerous arrests made mid-month in Kabul city. An ISAF soldier was wounded at Kabul airport on 19th April, during an engagement. Two missiles hit the airport but did not explode, on the night of 26th April, probably launched from a village on the outskirts of the city. Missions to the south of Kabul province and Logar province require armed guards.

Traffic movement through the Salang tunnel is reported slow due to congestion in the tunnel. Vehicle movement is restricted by a build up of ice and frozen snow in the approach galleries. The tunnel itself has no ventilation and there is a risk of suffocation for vehicle occupants blocked in the tunnel. A new traffic flow system has been implemented since 24th April and northbound traffic travels Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and southbound on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

CENTRAL HIGHLANDS: UNHAS operated a Beech 200 into Bamyan airfield for the first time on 3rd April. The aim was to assess the security situation and inspect the runway. As a result, Bamyan has now received UN security clearance and UN flights into the airfield are expected to begin.

WEST. The situation in Herat is stable but in the provinces of Badghis and Farah there are ethnic tensions and significant military activity. The security situation in the south of Farah Province continues to be a problem, with reports of serious skirmishes, also in the area of Pasaband towards Farah. A similar deterioration in the security situation is reported from north of Qala e Naw (Badghis Province), and UN missions are advised against travelling between Bala Murghab and Ghormach. Two UN staff were detained at gunpoint by armed troops at Zerko in Shindand, apparently due to suspicions that the vehicles and staff were not UN. They eventually released the staff when they were convinced.

There were several explosions in the centre of the city during the month. A truck transporting 6 returning refugee families was attacked and looted between Qala e Naw and Bala Murghab by armed men on 21st April.

PROTECTION

In Herat there were disturbances at the university campus, against reported harassment by the military check posts on site. The campus was closed for 2 days. In Badghis province, reports still filter through of 'Pashtun persecution' on the small Pashtun communities. Of concern is the increase in reports of rape against Pashtun women and girls.

The Technical Working Group on Protection in Herat agreed to insert a specific protection component in the Rapid Emergency Needs Assessments that WFP is about to undertake with the use of one helicopter. UNHCR staff will be conducting the rapid survey in order to assess the major protection issues in the places of return, which in many cases are also places of origin of the new IDPs arriving to Shayedee.

A demonstration of several hundred people took place in Shayedee in order to protest about the food situation in the camp. According to local authorities, other demonstrations are likely to be organized in the near future in Mazlakh, if the return process is not significantly accelerated. A new security force has been deployed in Mazlakh camp. Also in Shayedee, nine Pashtun IDPs, working as national staff for an NGO, left the camp due to alleged threats against them 'for ethnic reasons'.

The draft of a text that provides for a general amnesty for crimes committed by returnees prior to or during their exile - with the exception of common crimes, war crimes and crimes against humanity - is being finalized by the Ministry of Justice. Originally to be called an "Amnesty Declaration", the title is instead likely to accentuate the positive, possibly a decree promoting the "Dignified Return of Afghan Refugees". The IA has undertaken to promulgate such a declaration in the tripartite agreement signed with Iran and the draft agreement with Pakistan. The decree will specify that UNHCR and other relevant international organizations have the right to monitor returnees to ensure that international norms and human rights standards are upheld.

The Ministry of Education is to set up certification mechanisms for refugee children and teachers to facilitate their reintegration. Although these provisions represent a positive attitude towards returnee children, the insistence on documentation could be problematic for many families, especially those who will have left their country of asylum by the time the policy is formalized.

POPULATION MOVEMENTS (INTERNAL/EXTERNAL)

Facilitated Refugee/IDP Returnees
As of 24th April
REFUGEES
ESTIMATED NO.
From Pakistan
350,000
From Iran
17,000
From Tajikistan
8,900
From Turkmenistan
18
SUB-TOTAL
375,918
IDPs
135,000
TOTAL
510,918

In the last two months, the pace of return of refugees and IDPs has been rapidly growing. As can be seen in the table, over 500,000 people have participated in the assisted return programme, predominantly facilitated by the government, UNHCR and IOM. With the increased rainfall this year providing hope for farmers in many areas, many returnees have rushed back to take advantage of the planting season. Some have expressed displeasure at the delays in processing, but organisations have responded by deploying additional human resources to cope. A large proportion of both IDPs and refugees no longer have housing and providing earthquake resistant shelter is a priority in the wake of the northern region's spate of natural disasters. Returnees are being provided with shelter and family kits as well as food, but in many areas of return, newly returning Afghans will face considerable difficulties. There are ongoing efforts to address some of these issues but dealing with chronic poverty, lack of employment opportunities and weak social services can only be addressed in the longer term.

REFUGEE RETURNEES

The facilitated return programme has, since the start of March, assisted refugees from Pakistan and since 9th April assisted those from Iran. Initial statistics, indicate that the vast majority of returnees from Pakistan are returning to the provinces of Nangarhar and Kabul. Among the total number of returnees, the majority is Pashtuns (45%), followed by Tajiks (43%). Hazaras, Turkmens and Uzbeks comprise a small percentage (4.4%, 3.7% and 3.5% respectively). District profiles for the main areas of return are being prepared under the coordination of UNHCR. These profiles contain information on the security and political environment as well as identify the partners working in the districts. UNHCR is also finalising a draft reintegration strategy which will then be shared with partners, including the World Bank, with the objective of focusing on development.

There has been a sharp rise in deportations of Afghans. In March the figure reached nearly 6,000 deportees according to UNHCR. Deportees include documented refugees who have been resident long term in Iran and also newly-arrived illegal immigrants. The manner in which Afghans from all parts of Iran are being rounded up, and their families separated at the beginning of the voluntary repatriation exercise suggests that Authorities are seeking to discourage Afghans from remaining.

REPORT: "EXPECTED REPATRIATION PATTERNS, 2002"

The findings of a report by DACAAR, IRC and MADERA on repatriation patterns for refugees in NWFP of Pakistan have been published. The objective of the study was to 'provide information to assist the aid community in the making of informed decisions regarding expected target areas for repatriation, and regarding essential programme activities in those areas, to facilitate the smooth repatriation and integration of returning refugees'.

According to the findings, representatives of almost 16,000 families (approximately 80,000 people or 27%) indicated a definite intention to repatriate to Afghanistan this year. The vast majority of representatives interviewed reported that whenever it repatriated, their community would return to its home area or to the areas that they had been living in before they became refugees. A few did report that they would return to an urban centre that was different to the area in which they had been residing prior to fleeing the country. Three groups of people were identified as feeling that they really have no set place to return to - nomadic Kuchi's, the Sheik Mohammadi tribe, and the Kohistan/Gharani people.

Of concern is that, as is typical in many Afghan communities, the female members generally reported that they were unaware as to any discussions about repatriation that the men had held outside of the home. Most women did say, however, that they would abide by whatever their men-folk decided regarding return to Afghanistan but many women stated that they themselves had no wish to repatriate. The general feeling expressed by the refugees was that the situation in Pakistan was currently preferable to that in Afghanistan.

FROM IRAN - UNHCR's facilitated repatriation from Iran into Nimroz Province, through the Zaranj crossing point, was temporarily suspended following the fighting in and around Zaranj. UNHCR staff have since returned and operational activities resumed.

FROM PAKISTAN - Returnees going to northern provinces now receive additional cash grants to compensate for the cost of travelling a greater distance. The same approach is being taken with Afghan families who can prove that they are repatriating all the way from Karachi. They will also receive an additional $40 travel grant (per family) from encashment centers within Afghanistan.

In Faryab, there have been an estimated 20,000 spontaneous unregistered returns which occurred prior to the return of the UN to the area. Since March, 92 families have returned from Pakistan. IDP Camps in Dawlatabad and Khoja Sabst Push continue to present problems to the return partners and government. With the arrival of spontaneous returnees to Shirintagab and Dawlatabad many of these people are settling near the camps creating the impression of a growing camp. UNHCR is working on preventing this problem.

REFUGEE OUTFLOW

At the same time as many Afghans are returning home, others are trying to leave. An estimated 40,000, for example, have amassed at the transit centre at the Chaman border crossing with Pakistan, awaiting permission by the authorities to cross. This puts the estimated total number of refugees in Chaman district at over 120,000. A survey of families in the waiting area revealed that the as many as 50% claim to be Pashtuns originating from northern Afghanistan. Around 30% of the asylum seekers, however, have indicated that they are willing to return home if assistance is provided. To avert a crisis, local authorities have allowed some 7,000 waiting families to receive water and sanitation assistance, a two-week food package and to access basic health care. The UNHCR High Commissioner, discussed the issue during his recent visit in an effort to address the situation, which includes the critical water shortage, Pakistan's concern that assistance in the Chaman camps serves as a pull factor, and the overcrowding and insecurity in Afghanistan's Spin Boldak camps. These issues illustrate the complexity of the problem. A four-step approach to the situation of displacement, largely focused on decongesting the Spin Boldak camps and the Chaman waiting area has been planned. The first step would involve a survey of both caseloads, to determine the number of families willing to return to their places of origin. Once these families are identified, UNHCR and its partners would facilitate their voluntary repatriation. For the remaining families, including those in the Chaman waiting area, UNHCR and the AIA would identify a more suitable site between Kandahar and Takhta Pul to provide protection and assistance. UNHCR would then facilitate the relocation of volunteering families to the new IDP camps.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PEOPLE

Of the estimated 920,000 IDPs, UNHCR reports that around 135,000 IDPs have already been assisted to return, but the numbers of those being facilitated to return are increasing daily as currently there are ongoing movements from Maslakh, Bamyan, Spin Boldak and Hesar Shahi. Transfers of IDPs began in two additional areas. Out of 7,500 people who are expected to move from Bamyan, a first group of 1,396 people left for Shaidan district, central Afghanistan on 22nd April. A further operation commenced for IDPs from Hesar Shahi camp, near Jalalabad. Of the 24,000 estimated in the camp, 13,100 have expressed a desire to retrun home and most come from Kabul, Nangarhar, Laghman and Kunar. Some 7,300 have said they do not wish to go home.

IOM reports that 27,752 IDPs (7,668 families) have been facilitated to return to their home areas from the camps in the west, the majority to the districts of Qala e Naw, Qadis and Kushk. The number of returns is being carefully monitored to ensure that they are voluntary and not forced. A survey which was conducted in January/February, found that 54% of the 117,000 IDPs in Mazlakh camp did not ever want to go back home. Consequently, although 3,000 people are returning per day, it is highly likely that this trend will reduce soon. IOM and UNHCR are also discussing "look and see" visits to enable people to get an accurate picture of conditions and assistance available in their home areas and reduce the number of people re-displacing and going back to the camps.

Local authorities in Herat are putting pressure on agencies to speed up the return of IDPs. The reasons include the need for IDPs to go back to their places of origin before the end of the planting season and the need to 'make space' for the refugees about to return to the region. At the same time, local authorities are increasingly concerned with the impact of the return of IDPs and refugees on the local economy, particularly due to the already high unemployment rate. They shared this concern with the assistance community, strongly recommending that assistance be provided in the places of origin/return. The ongoing influx of families to Shayedee, is encouraging UN agencies and NGOs to speed up support to the areas of return. New arrivals are coming from Ghor (reportedly due to poor economic situation) and from Faryab and Badghis (reportedly due to violence and intimidation).

Out of a total of 184,671 planned returns for the year from the north, 51,131 have already returned. In addition, the return programme from the "islands" is almost completed with 8,952 already returned. 7,500 IDPs from Bamyan are moving. 31,000 families will start to move from Kabul on Tuesday, 30th April, 80% of whom will go to the Shomali Plains. The ex-soviet compound in Kabul has now re-filled for the second time, and further facilitated returns will not take place until the compound is sealed.

A worrying trend that has been observed is the large number of returnees going to Kabul and other cities, particularly those refugees coming from Iran, as opposed to their places of origin. The IA is trying to avoid this pattern by focusing assistance in the rural areas. One NGO pointed out that 400-500 families per day are settling in Kabul, for example. The sanitation and malnutrition problems that have been seen before in the capital may return. It was decided that this issue could be discussed at the Central Coordination Meeting, Monday 28th April.

On the Afghan Voluntary Return (AVR) Programme, IOM is bringing in 10,000 Afghans, not necessarily skilled, from all over the world.

IOM had a meeting with the Minister of Transport to discuss the high transportation costs in Herat. This issue is also being followed up by the AACA. In the interim, IOM plans to send 200 trucks and minibuses from Kabul to Herat to deal with it.

The Governor of Kandahar ordered the relocation of 5 IDP camps from Regwa to MarGhar, which is closer to the district centre; more secure and facilitates assistance deliveries for an estimated 2,000 families.

A survey of drought displaced in the two camps in Faizabad was conducted on 26 March by the UN, Global Partners and ORA using the IOM IDP return registration form. There are about 800 families in the two sites; some of them indicated that they have been in the area since the beginning of the drought three years ago and many said they did not intend to return home. A thorough analysis of the data will be done and the results will the return strategy.

FUNDING

IOM reports that $22.4 million has been contributed or pledged towards the $74.8 million requested in the ITAP. Norway recently contributed $580,000 to the Afghan programme.

HUMANITARIAN SITUATION

FLOODING

Due to the heavy rains in parts of the country, there have been floods this month and more are anticipated, which is likely to have an impact on humanitarian operations and food security. Most recently there was flooding this month in Badghis Province, but also in the southern districts of Faryab. Flooding was also reported in Dar-e-Sof.

Torrential rains fell in Badghis, 23rd April. The affected area is around Qala-I Naw, which initially cut it off from surrounding areas. All agencies both in Herat and in Qala-I -Naw are actively participating in the relief effort, coordinated by the Governor's office in Qala-I-Naw. All IOM convoys (both returning refugees and IDPs) to Badghis were been put on hold due to road conditions. This part of the country was drought-affected and many of the IDPs in camps originated from this province. Further flooding is likely as more rain is expected.

There are also fears that the Sar-e-Houz Dam, which is a major water source for irrigation systems in the Maimana valley, may rupture. The resulting flood surge would wipe out huge hectares of land and compromise the future food security of the region.

FOOD AID

WFP has conducted over 60 rapid assessment missions in the rural areas of Afghanistan over the past few weeks. Preliminary findings indicate the increasing need for food aid, overall in the assessed areas, in this pre-harvest hunger period as malnutrition persists. The sale of household assets continues, more children are being pushed into the labour market to support their families and early marriages are reported to be commonplace. Needs are increasing in the pre-harvest hunger period. As a result WFP is stepping up efforts to provide over 280,000MT food to about nine million people until the harvest in July. In addition the increasing numbers of returning refugees are stretching the food aid resources.

Of the $285 million requested to fund its projects in Afghanistan until the end of year, a total of $107.9 million is still required. Interruption to the food pipeline in June 2002 is likely.

FOOD SECURITY

A locust outbreak has struck northern Afghanistan but the response has been rapid and the severity has been minimised. The infestation has spread through nine provinces and is seriously affecting crops in Balkh, Kunduz, Baghlan and Samangan. All available means are being employed to protect crops until the harvest, although community mobilisation has not proved successful in Kunduz and Baghlan. FAO has deployed 200 staff and all available stocks of pesticides and ordered an additional 10,000 litres which is expected to arrive mid May. The operation is at a critical stage and has been extended a further 40 days. Invaded crops will, therefore, continue to be treated until the June harvest. Unfortunately, FAO was unable to mobilise a suitable aircraft or helicopter to better target the affected fields, for a combination of reasons. The extent of this year's locust infestation can be partially attributed to lack of funding for the programme last year. The key to ensuring a gradual reduction of locust populations is a sustained control programme, over several years.

On a positive note, there was sufficient rainfall in the north and west of the country this season, which has greatly improved the prospects of a good harvest. In the south and east, however, drought remains a problem. This year, initial observations suggest that there is a larger area under cultivation, and the crop development is far superior to that observed in the last three years. FAO and WFP are conducting a nationwide Crop Assessment in May/June that will assess the area planted and estimate the likely harvest outputs. Its main objective is to determine the level of food aid required. While livestock will be part of this survey, a more comprehensive survey will take place in autumn or the following spring.

A current challenge for the agricultural sector, according to FAO, is the need to ensure a constant and increased supply of quality seed. Ideally this should be procured locally as it more suitable to the Afghan environment. FAO's quality seed multiplication programme is being up scaled. Currently 5,000 farmers are contracted and will produce 10,000MT seeds that will serve 100,000 farmers. The short-term objective is to double the output to 20,000MT and therefore the primary beneficiaries to 200,000 farmers.

WATER AND ENVIRONMENTAL SANITATION

Water exploitation, combined with three years of drought have resulted in an alarming drop in the water table and as many as two-thirds of all wells have a low yield or have dried up. Shortages of potable water have negatively impacted on health, hygiene and food security. A conference was held 29th April - 1st May to develop a common vision for water resource management and development and to develop an emergency plan of action for immediate and medium term rehabilitation of the water sector.

HEALTH

NATIONAL IMMUNISATION DAYS

A nationwide campaign to vaccinate approximately 5.8 million children against polio was held from 16-18th April. According to WHO, initial data shows that Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif, for example, show a coverage of more than 100 percent. This is because initial target populations in some areas were higher than expected because of returnee populations. In Bamyan, "cave to cave" vaccinations were conducted in the "mountains of the Buddhas" where hundreds of IDPs have recently returned. For the first time in more than five years, women made up a large proportion of the vaccination teams in all parts of the country. Women had much better access to households and their numbers will be increased for the next NIDs. Insecurity has not limited the coverage in a significant way. All districts around Gardez and Khost were covered in spite of military action in that area, but there was a slight delay in Daikundi, Uruzgan province, where the immunisation effort was affected by factional fighting. Special teams were set up to vaccinate nomads, and repatriating refugees will also be included in the next round of NIDs scheduled to take place, 26th -28th May. It is hoped that polio will be eradicated globally by 2005.

MEASLES

As of 1st April, 4.3 million children have been vaccinated in the Measles Morbidity Reduction campaign, launched 31 December 2001. The targeted population is 9.5-11 million children between 6 months and 12 years.

TUBERCULOSIS

Tuberculosis treatment and monitoring has been raised as a national issue. Treatment without follow-up contributes to the disease becoming resistant to treatment. For IDPs who are leaving the camps, there is concern that the Directly Observed Treatment (DOT) will be interrupted thus contributing to drug resistance. In the Northeast there are concerns that the number of cases is increasing. Efforts are being made to address this issue amongst the MoPH, health NGOs and UN Agencies, particularly in relation to IDPs who have been treated in camps and are in the process of returning to their locations of origin. WHO, together with UNHCR, are working on either ensuring continuous treatment in the main returnee areas or advising that TB patients stay where they are until treatment is finished. A national TB coordination meeting took place 15-17th April between the main health organisations to plan for a national TB control programme.

RECONSTRUCTION

UNDP organized a Workshop to discuss the area-based programmes for the ten focus provinces identified by the IA as requiring urgent interventions. It was attended by the IA, ACA, NGOs, donors and the UN. Needs assessment missions will be undertaken in each area. The 10 areas have been selected in view of the massive human suffering and displacement that had occurred there. The features that require special attention in the 10 areas are the crosscutting themes of gender, trauma and human rights. This exercise will be an analytical tool that will allow the areas to be "narrowed down" both geographically and in terms of the priority issues to be addressed. It is agreed that the approach will be two-track: immediate interventions to alleviate suffering and rebuild livelihoods while at the same time planning and setting in motion more structured development oriented programmes.

In addition, vulnerability mapping is being undertaken throughout the country by the UNAMA area coordinators in association with partners, to better identify the most vulnerable areas and the specific needs. Under this process, district-level information will be collated on the basis of a template of multi-sector indicators, relating to food security, agriculture, access to water and health services, population movements, landmine/uxo contamination, and proximity to provincial centres. Once gathered, district data will be weighted according to vulnerability and mapped.

Contributions to ARTF
US$
Denmark
5,000,000
Germany
10,000,000
Italy
7,000,000
India
500,000
Netherlands
32,000,000
South Korea
1,000,000
Turkey
500,000
TOTAL
56,000,000

The Implementation Group, which is the main donor coordination mechanism, established in Tokyo held its first meeting, 10-11th April, in Kabul. A recurrent budget as well as the development budget, which reflects the government's priorities, based on the national development framework and the completed needs assessment, received considerable attention from the donors. The Interim Administration presented a list of quick impact projects. In addition, a total of US$56 million was committed to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). (See Table)

EARTHQUAKE UPDATE (see separate earthquake reports: www.reliefweb.int/)

On the 12th April 2002 a third major earthquake hit northern Afghanistan, and was the second to hit Nahrin District. The epicentre was 150km north of Kabul with a magnitude of 5.8. There were reportedly 27 people killed and approximately 120 injured. The availability of pre-positioned supplies near Nahrin following the second earthquake mitigated the need to request additional supplies and demonstrated the importance of disaster preparedness.

SUB-NATIONAL LEVEL

CENTRAL HIGHLANDS

One hundred and fifty cases of measles were reported in Sharistan district, Bamyan, including 5-6 deaths.

EASTERN

A substantial increase in poppy cultivation had been reported with farmers removing or destroying wheat crops in favour of poppies. The Poppy Eradication campaign was launched officially on 9th April, but as a result of protests it has been reduced to a few selected areas.

An anti-rabies campaign has been conducted in the Shinwar cluster by the Regional Health Directorate supported by WHO and HNI; and an extended anti rabies campaign in the region has been proposed.

A Rapid Emergency Food Needs Assessment survey team visited Qurghai and Dawlatshai districts of Laghman Province. The area covers a population of 146,800. REFNA's recent survey confirms a further deterioration in the food situation. 45% of the population of these two districts will require food assistance for at least the next three months until June. The survey data indicated that between 9-12% of the families are headed by widows. This is an area of IDP and refugee returns. 4-5% of returnees from Pakistan arrived in these two districts. Resettlement has been problematic due to the destruction of their shelters, non-availability of drinking water, continued drought, unemployment and non-existent medical facilities at the village level. WFP is currently reviewing proposals for various food assistance interventions. General food distributions under FFW will begin 15 April but this will cover only 38% of the beneficiaries. Additional resources are, therefore, required under the drought-affected programme for the remaining food insecure families.

WFP also completed a survey of Central Nuristan. The survey revealed that more than 90% of the total population has less than one jerib of land. About half of the livestock have been lost. Cereal production also failed this year. More than 100,000 people in this area will be considered for food aid for at least three months. These are the most vulnerable people in this area. About 40,000 should start receiving food aid under Food for Work projects. Now that Nuristan is cleared by UN security, an assessment of all districts will soon be mounted to complement the information gathered during the National Immunisation Days (NIDs).

The prices of housing in Jalalabad, while not as extreme as Kabul are rising and have more than doubled in the past six months.

ACBAR has reopened its office in Jalalabad.

WESTERN

Following the recent flooding in the district of Qala-I-Naw, out of an expected affected population of 3000 persons, a total of 1745 have already received a two week assistance package. Additional packages for 1255 beneficiaries are available in Qala e Naw Warehouse for newly identified victims. Even though water systems are severely damaged in many places, people are reported to have some access to safe water. People who have lost their houses are reported to be living with relatives or neighbours for the time being. An estimated 314km roads have been destroyed or severely damaged, and these are likely to be repaired using Food for Asset Creation (FoodAC). In addition the most urgent problems to be addressed include repair of the potable water and irrigation systems, provision of seeds for additional planting as recent planting has been destroyed, and shelter support.

UNICEF will conduct a follow-up to MSF's February nutrition survey in Badghis Province. According to a recent survey, acute malnutrition of under 5s is high but not alarming, although there are numerous cases of chronic malnutrition which require attention. One of the main conclusions of the survey is that food distribution does not have a direct impact on the nutritional status of children, unless it is a regular distribution complemented by supplementary food.

Following complaints about insufficient quantity and lack of variety of the food distributed so far, in Shayedee camp, WFP has responded that it is ready to distribute additional commodities (ensuring complimentarity with the existing diet, as well as providing adequate calorie and nutrient intake). The camp population has been observed selling bread to the market in order to buy other types of food. There are suspicions, however, that the population figures for Shayedee camp could be inflated, as was the case in Mazlakh and this could be one of the reasons bread is being sold. Distribution of bread instead of wheat flour has started in Mazlakh camp and pulses and oil have now been added to the distribution of bread, thus increasing the calorie level to 2100.

In Mazlakh camp, 1,543 beneficiaries are included in the supplementary feeding centres in Mazlakh Camp and 501 in Shayedee camp. The morbidity reports still show a high incidence of ARI cases.

De-mining activities are ongoing, and the survey teams have covered a total of 2,520,367 sq. metres in several districts of Herat and Farah province and 4264 different types of Unexploded Ordinance have been destroyed. A total of 3543 persons have undergone mine awareness training but there are needs for additional mine awareness for returning refugees.

NORTH

An ACTED-led interagency assessment of Kohistan revealed an encouraging nutritional situation and the possibility for guarded optimism for future food security in the area. The health situation is extremely poor, however, with no access to medical facilities hospital and there are reports of high TB incidences.

Due to the absence of implementing partners in Faryab there are challenges in planning and solving problems related to humanitarian interventions. In Maimana the situation is better, but overall there are concerns that limited interventions in several sectors will impact on the return programme. Agencies interested in operating in these provinces should get in touch with the Area Coordinator Farahana Faruqi (faruqi@un.org) and Daniel Pugh, Head of sub-office (dus_wm_8@wavenet.unog.ch).

ACTEDs Womens Centre has opened and will be run in cooperation with the Women's Association. It is hoped that 450 beneficiaries will be targeted with income generating and educational programmes.

Localized rains and hail storms have caused flooding and cropland damage in several parts of southern Faryab Districts including Maimana City, Almar and Gorziwan. The villages of Deh Marin, Gulbian and Qalai Turdi in Gorziwan initially reported significant losses through the locally based Red Crescent Society. A ground assessment team led by UNOCHA Faryab confirmed on 5th and 6th April, the air assessment determining that while cropland losses were significant, human life and livestock losses were not nearly as serious as first reported.

Floods were also reported in Dar-e-Sof following heavy rains, 16th April. It was reported that the most serious damage affected three villages, namely Zereki, Dahan-e-Shurab and Saryiowalang. According to the reports received, one hundred houses are reportedly completely destroyed. It was also reported that flooding had damaged crop and farmland in Dasht-e-Rabat and dasht-e-Chahi in Amrakh district. Further action will be taken following the results of assessments.

The Sar-e-Houz Dam is a major water source for the irrigation system that feeds the entire Maimana Valley. Local authorities are troubled by seepage at the base of the Sar-e-Houz. This is as a result of tremors last year, which destabilized the dam wall. With heavy rains the dam is seeing more pressure and therefore more seepage. Fears are that the wall's integrity will be weakened the result of which would be a disastrous flood surge down the Maimana River Valley. If the dam were to rupture, the resulting flood would wipe out huge hectares of land and compromise the future food security of the region. More rain is increasing concerns for flooding in various places in the area. The Ministry of Irrigation has sent two engineers to assess the damage.

MSF reports the Global Acute Malnutrition rate in the Qarai Valley in Qaisar is down to 4% from 14.7% where they have two Blanket Feeding Programmes for children under the height of 100cm. The decrease is attributed to several factors including general food distributions and the availability of other roughage for consumption.

While results are still in preparation, initial findings of the SC/US Nutritional Survey conducted in Belchiragh are that malnutrition rates are not generally high. They suggest that with the coming harvest, food and seed stocks will begin to be replenished while general food distributions will provide consumable food.

At a recent Maimana provincial Health Sector meeting the following were identified as key problems : the weak health infrastructure particularly affecting the needs of women and emergency cases; TB control; vaccine coverage; the shortage of trained professionals; and emergency preparedness for malaria and cholera.

NORTHEAST

According to the health coordination meeting held in Badakhshan, malaria is becoming a serious problem. Cases of Leishmaniasis are also increasing and an emergency committee will be set up to explore methods of eradicating the disease through the control of stray dogs which carry the parasite, as well as address other outbreaks and emergency situations coherently. TB cases are also on the increase.

The health team sent to the area in Darwaz where a strange illness was reported in mid-March completed their investigation and indicated that there was no reason for alarm as only common diseases were observed. The issue will be further pursued, however, as reports persist.

A meeting was held by UN Agencies and NGOs to review the nutritional situation in Badakhshan. Although efforts have been made to train medical personnel in nutrition, surveillance has not been successful in Badakhshan, partly due to the weak and overburdened provincial health structure. Moreover, nutritional programmes in the past have been associated with abuses by armed forces so most clinics are wary of these programmes. UNICEF, which reports that 10-12% under 5s are malnourished, is planning to increase its supplementary feeding programme beyond that already operating in Faizabad hospital. WHO and Focus undertook a mission to Wakhan district in the province to review the health and nutritional situation and reported no access to safe drinking water, limited access to fruit and vegetables. The Focus nutrition survey reported 24% severe malnutrition and 35% moderate which is the highest in the province.

While food assistance is substantial to the Northeast, little support is being given to agriculture which is the major employer in the region. In the absence of profitable alternatives opium poppy cultivation is a preferred option and observers have also noted that the depression in wheat prices has also acted as a disincentive to farmers. FAO's plans to establish a regional office in Faizabad, which would focus on seed production, is seen as a positive step in addressing this issue.

A locust control programme is being set up by ICRC, FAO and Focus, following the discovery of locusts in Argu.

A delegation of international NGOs present in Taloqan met with the representatives of the offices of the Governor, the Mayor and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss principles of humanitarian action and the ICRC Code of Conduct. NGOs reported that the meeting was productive and are currently discussing a format to report, perhaps on a quarterly basis, on their activities. It was clarified that while the Governor represents the AIA, the MFA plays a special role with international NGOs as concerns their staff and registration. In Takhar, in addition to the AIMS form, NGOs have developed a form summarising food and NFI assistance to the region which they hope to complete soon and will share with the local authorities.

ICRC is planning to reduce its presence in Badakhshan running the programme from Kabul whereas Kunduz, Takhar and Baghlan activities will be managed from their regional base in Kunduz.

WFP is planning to open a satellite office and warehouse in Taloqan.

SOUTHERN

In Daikundi district, Uruzgan province, deaths had been reported over a short time period from an unknown disease. An assessment team has left from Kabul to the district to investigate the report, but the area is very remote and difficult to assess. At this moment there is no epidemiological information available to confirm an outbreak. However, the district has a lot of children who have not been vaccinated against measles by either routine immunization or outreach services. The nationwide Measles Mortality Reduction Campaign, a joint MoPH, WHO, and UNICEF initiative, has now identified this district as one of the priority districts to be covered.

A joint MoPH, MSF team are investigating reports of an unidentified disease which caused 18 children to die mid April in five villages of Khake Afghan district, Zabul province.

One hundred and sixty wells were chlorinated following a typhiod fever outbreak in Dand District, Kandahar. Nearly 70 people were treated.

Recent inter-factional fighting in Nimroz affected relief operations in the province, namely the suspension of aid operations during the clashes (with the exception of MSF-F who continued its assistance to the hospital in Zaranj City). This is one of the most severely affected drought areas in southern Afghanistan with some 100,000 vulnerable people in need of assistance. WFP's wheat distribution, emergency relief assistance to displaced families, and the refugee return operation from Iran were suspended, is seeking (in discussions with the Iranian Government) to delay the planned closure of the two large organized camps which together hosts together around 2,500 families). The situation has now stabilised in Nimroz Province and activities, including repatriation have resumed.

The Poppy Eradication Programme in the south has ceased for the time being and there has been no more violence over the last days of the month. The Loya Jiga Process in Uruzgan could be further compromised as the poppy harvest is due around the end of May and the beginning of June and increasing insecurity.

In a positive development, the salaries of civil servants have been paid in Uruzgan Province and will soon also be paid in Kandahar.

Following the visit to the area of the Director of the AACA, Mr. Ashraf Ghani, mid-month, during which he announced the disbursement of funds for Quick Impact Projects, the area coordination board has been finalising project proposals to submit to the AACA. A total of $10 million will be spent on roads, immigration and clinics in Helmand, $3 million in Kandahar on employment generation activities and $5 million on rural rehabilitation in Zabul.

CENTRAL

In the northern parts of the Shomali plains, agricultural activity appears good due ot the improved rainfall, but in the central and southern areas, lack of returnees due to the destroyed irrigation, systems, presence, of UXOs, means that agricultural production will be limited for the foreseeable future. Repair of irrigation systems in particular is crucial to ensure these parts become agriculturally sustainable.

The central Shomali Plains, eastern parts of Kapisa Province and southwestern parts of Wardak province are the most vulnerable according to the recently completed vulnerability mapping exercise.

Preliminary results of ACF's nutritional survey in the Pansjir valley, conducted in March, show a global malnutrition rate of 10% and severe malnutrition at 1-2%. Discussions with UNICEF are ongoing to address this issue.

REGIONAL ACCESS AND ISSUES

UZBEKISTAN

The Friendship Bridge was closed for maintenance and repairs on 2nd April. Apart from this temporary closure, the Termez-Hairaton corridor remains open. UN trucks with official UN plates from Termez to Northern Afghanistan are reportedly facing problems in Hairaton (Afghan side) when returning to Uzbekistan. These problems seem to closely relate to a lack of consistent custom procedures and can result in long delays. Due to security, UN trucks should not stay overnight in Hairaton.

PAKISTAN

The 17th March grenade attack on the International Protestant Church and the preceding incidents at the French Embassy and the British High Commission in late January, are seen to represent a deliberate terrorist campaign against foreigners in Pakistan. As such, Islamabad has returned to Phase 1 and measures designed to strengthen security in the Diplomatic Enclave have been implemented. The US Embassy and Canadian High Commission have ordered the evacuation of all families and non-essential staff.

This report aims to consolidate information from various sources to provide an overview of the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.
To contribute please contact: Tracy Vaughan, UNAMA: vaughant@un.org