Afghanistan

Afghanistan: Severe Winter Conditions OCHA Situation Report No. 1

Ref: OCHA/GVA - 2005/32
OCHA Situation Report No. 1
Afghanistan - Severe Winter Conditions
This report is based on information provided by the Office of the UN Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General/Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan.

Situation

1. Severe winter weather has affected much of the country during the past one month. There have been at least 100 deaths reported so far due to extreme cold temperature and cold related illness. However the death toll is expected to rise as more information becomes available. Heavy snow has blocked district roads and prevented the movement of food provoking shortages and steep price rises. Outbreaks of diseases have also occurred in cut-off districts. Blockages of roads by snow, and remoteness of districts, have made it more difficult for outbreaks to be reported and responded to promptly by medical teams. Provinces of most concern are Badakhshan, Daikundi, Ghazni, Paktika, Ghor, Zabul, Uruzgan and Wardak.

2. Zabul province has been particularly badly affected by winter weather. Some 33 deaths due to cold/heavy snowfalls have been reported in Qalat and Shahjoy district. Further reports of mortality due to severe cold are being received from elsewhere in the province. As difficulties exist in accessing the villages these figures could be even higher. The district roads in Zabul, off the main Kabul-Kandahar road, are closed. There are reports stating that food prices locally are rising sharply due to blockage of roads by snow hampering movement of food. Access to these areas poses a particular problem due to the ongoing insecurity.

3. In Kabul municipality deaths due to hypothermia and cold related illnesses have recently occurred amongst the urban homeless, especially within those settlements where families live in tents. These families will be temporarily re-located to buildings owned by the Afghan Red Crescent Society; this is being organized by UNHCR, working closely with the Government and the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS).

4. In Ghor provinces, an outbreak of whooping cough has been confirmed, while 6 deaths and 40 further cases were reported. There are also confirmed reports of widespread respiratory illness, pneumonia and whooping cough in Logar and Daikundi provinces. Furthermore a measles epidemic has been confirmed in Charsada district (Ghor) where 100 cases have been reported amongst children, with 8 deaths.

National Government Response

5. The Government of Afghanistan has set up a Disaster Relief Committee, including the Ministries of Defense, Information, Reconstruction and Rural Development (MRRD), Public Works, Urban Development and Housing, ISAF, CFC Coalition, USAID and the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to coordinate the humanitarian response. Meetings are currently held every two days, with DSRSG/RC/HC representing UNAMA and the UN Agencies. The Ministry of Defense has deployed a helicopter to fly in health personnel and medical supplies to Logar province.

6. Concerns have also been raised by the Minister of Reconstruction and Rural Development on widespread flooding once the cold spell ends. In this regard, UNAMA has also urged the Government and UN agencies to preposition supplies, in line with disaster preparedness requirements.

7. The Drought Steering Committee (established last summer) has re-allocated USD 800,000 for urgent maintenance and upgrading of roads. A Provincial Emergency Winter Access Fund is being established.

International Response

8. The Government of Afghanistan has requested international assistance to the United Nations systems and its partners. As stated above, the international community is working closely with the Government authorities through Disaster Relief Committee.

9. The response provided so far by the UN, NGOs as well as Coalition and ISAF is as follows:

  • Zabul province: UNAMA is coordinating emergency response with distribution of food and non-food items together with MRRD, Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT), ARCS, UNICEF and WFP.
  • WFP has pre-positioned some 21,311MT (or 95%) of the targeted amount of 22,326MT for 571,386 beneficiaries in 16 provinces, living in inaccessible areas during winter. Approximately 74% has already been distributed.
  • UN and Coalition helicopters have transported medical staff and supplies, provided by the Ministry of Public Health, to Ghor province. UNICEF and World Vision are responding to the measles outbreak in Charsada district, while a local NGO is dealing with the health concerns in Tulak district.
  • An ISAF helicopter is transported medical staff and equipment to Ghorka and Nili districts, Daikundi province.

OCHA continues to maintain a close contact with the UN DSRSG/Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator in Kabul, and will revert with further information as appropriate.

11. This situation report, together with further information on other ongoing emergencies is also available on the OCHA Internet Website at http://www.reliefweb.int.

Telephone: +41-22-917 12 34
Fax: +41-22-917 00 23
E-mail: ochagva@un.org

In case of emergency only: Tel. +41-22-917 20 10

Desk Officers:
Ms. Afia Ali-Blasco / Mr. Jamie McGoldrick
Direct Tel. +41-22-917-1173/917-1712

Press contact:
(GVA) Ms. Elizabeth Byrs, direct Tel. + 41-22-917 2653
(N.Y.) Ms. Stephanie Bunker, direct Tel. +1-917-8921679

Disclaimer

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.