Afghanistan

Afghanistan: UNJLC Bulletin 03/2003

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UNJLC bulletins aim to provide a concise overview of the logistical situation within Afghanistan on a weekly basis. While in depth analysis of particular agency operations is outside the scope of these reports, it is hoped that readers receive a valuable overview of those logistical issues affecting the humanitarian community as a whole.
1. SECURITY

An inter-factional conflict was reported in Bala Murghab town. Subsequently, no traffic was reported to have left Bala Murghab on 13th January. Differing names of the concerned factions have been reported, however, confirmation of the forces involved in the conflict has not yet been received.

In Kabul increased threat from magnetic bombs, which are intended to be attached to vehicles, is reported. All guards and staff members are alerted to this new threat. Questions related to the threat should be addressed to the nearest security officer.

The rising level of robberies is a major concern in the North and North Eastern Areas. NGOs continue to be targeted; the Japanese NGO (MeRA) office was broken into on 5th January; the German NGO (AGRO) had its offices in Pul-I Khumri looted on 7th January. UNICEF reported an attempted robbery of the Rub Halls at Mazar airport on 5th January. On 6th January, four members of the INGO CESVI were arrested by police and harassed and a fifth member was forcibly hijacked in a taxi and taken to the police station. The incident follows the reported robbery of the CESVI offices last week when a large sum of money was stolen. There is much concern in the NGO community regarding the trend of robberies against NGO offices where large sums of cash are being stolen with little positive reaction from the authorities.

Minor skirmishes have occurred between factional commanders in several areas of the North and North East (Mazar, Keshende, Dar-I Suf, and Sholgra). Nevertheless, all conflicts have been short-lived and highly localised. Although not of great consequence, these incidents continue to illustrate the ongoing hostility between the two major parties in the region.

Rising crime in the South is of increasing concern. During the past three weeks five incidents of vehicles being ambushed and stolen (UNHCR/MACA, VARA, OXFAM, SWABAC and most recently TEAR FUND) have been reported. Nearly all the vehicles have been recovered. Representation has been made to the authorities to provide security and prevent such occurrences.

The road from Kandahar through Ghazni and on to Sayadabad is becoming extremely dangerous and UN road missions now require armed escorts for the full length of the journey between Sayadabad and Qalat. The Governors of the regions, through which this major trunk route passes, say they are unable to provide security and that the UN and NGOs must use the Government provided escorts, at an indicated cost. This is causing growing concern that an 'industry' in armed escorts is being established. Efforts are being made to raise this issue with Central Government, the Regional Governors and the local Shuras to eliminate the need of armed escorts.

2. CIVIL MILITARY RELATIONS

On 12th January, Coalition Forces held a meeting with key donors to discuss the objectives of the Provisional Reconstruction Teams. Preliminary establishment of these teams will be located in Bamyan, Kunduz and Gardez. It was proposed that funding be channelled directly to the PRTs, which have an initial budget of USD 12 million. On January 20th, a similar forum will be held with US Ambassadors, UN Heads of Agencies and NGOs. Outstanding issues are the distinction between military services and humanitarian assistance, the relationship with UN area offices and the position of the Afghanistan government. Once implemented, the teams will be called the Provincial Reconstruction Teams.

3. AIR OPERATIONS

The helicopter contracted by WFP/UNHAS to carry out MEDIVAC and CASEVAC is now operational. The maiden voyage was to assist WHO with the delivery of immunization and medical staff to Faizabad on Thursday, 9th January. Funding for this service was provided by WFP, UNICEF and UNHCR as the primary users of the helicopter.

4. TRANSPORT CORRIDORS

This week, the Sadberg Pass reportedly opened and it is expected that Hajikak Pass will re-open during the next reporting period.

The road from Jalalabad to Kabul is open to UN missions (un-escorted). Since incidents of armed robbery along that route (against other road users) are high, UN missions are cautioned to be strictly MOSS compliant and not to travel during twilight hours.

5. TRANSPORT SECTOR

On the 8th January, UNJLC facilitated the signing of a new umbrella transport rate agreement between the Humanitarian Community and the Transport Committee of Herat. The new agreement, valid until 31st May 2003, establishes a ceiling USD/MT/KM rate of USD0.06 for the paved roads from Herat to Kandahar, the Turkmenistan border, and the Iranian border. A ceiling rate of USD0.1276 is outlined for all other routes. The agreement states that these ceilings are winter specific, and re-negotiation for summer rates will take place in May. Despite the existence of ceiling rates, the agreement strongly underlines the continued freedom of the humanitarian community to freely choose the transporters of their choice and negotiate a lower fee below the ceiling rate.

6. FUEL

The average price per litre of Diesel in Afghanistan during the week ranged between USD 0.28 (Kandahar) and USD 0.35 (Herat) whereas the average price of Petrol ranged between USD 0.32 (Kandahar) and 0.38 (Herat). The exchange rate during the week was between AFG 43.75 (Kabul) and AFG 46.57 (Herat) per USD 1.

In Pakistan, the average fuel price of Diesel and Petrol remained as of last week i.e. USD 0.36 and USD 0.56 respectively. The average exchange rate in Pakistan during the week was 58.10 Rupees per USD 1.

During the reporting period, the average price per litre of Diesel in Uzbekistan ranged between USD 0.16 to USD 0.26, whereas, the average price per litre of Petrol was USD 0.26. The average exchange rate in Uzbekistan was 960 Sum per USD 1.

7. WAREHOUSING

UNJLC Herat is investigating the status of a government warehouse in Qala-e Naw, currently used by the humanitarian community. A previous agreement facilitated by UNJLC, provided for free usage of the warehouse by the humanitarian community until the start of 2003, after which point, a level of rent was to be paid.

During the coming week, the UNHCR warehouses in Quetta and Chaman, previously with the implementing partner Tear Fund, will be handed over to Global Movement for Children and Women. Along with the warehouses, nine UNHCR trucks, which can be used by other NGOs for transportation of food and non-food items, will also be allotted.

8. TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE

In Herat, continued discussions between CHLC, UNAMA and IOM/ATI regarding the funding of rehabilitation work for the route between Qala-e Naw and Murghab were reported. This is envisaged as involving the rebuilding of both Qala-e Naw and Bala Murghab bridges as well as retaining walls at Qala-e Naw and the rehabilitation of the road between the two towns.

9. WINTERISATION

To launch the New Year activities, UNJLC convened a meeting of the key players in the Winterisation Access programme in Kabul. Significant issues focused on the division of labour and areas that were not being addressed either through lack of a contracted organisation or effort on the part of the contracted body. The impact related to the delayed receipt of the heavy equipment was also identified. All issues raised have been addressed with the appropriate parties. Additionally, MRRD/UNOPS reported that 2000 uniforms consisting of heavy jackets, boots, eyewear, goggles, shovels and ice picks have been delivered to the Central Highlands and West. Another 500 sets are also being assembled for the North East. To-date, over 1000 labourers have been employed through community contracts, negotiated by the Winter Team.

At the Winter Preparedness Operational Task Force meeting held on Sunday 12th January, UNAMA and MRRD announced a Rapid Interim Assessment to be conducted in urban areas to evaluate the impact of the Winter Programme to date. This Assessment will commence in Kabul on 23rd January and would conclude by 25th January. The methodology will focus on open interviews with selected beneficiaries in the regions.

A truck containing 250 winter uniforms for use in snow clearance in Badghis arrived in Herat during the week. Together with MRRD, UNJLC and UNOPS will organise for the clearance of the road between Qala-e Naw and Jawand in Badghis. Operations will centre around Qadis from where two Kamaz trucks and a WFP wheel loader will support the efforts of the manual snow clearance.

Confirmation of the signing of an extension of contract between Senan Construction and UNOPS has now reached UNJLC/UNOPS Herat. Snow clearance, both manual and by machine, will be undertaken by Senan Construction at the Sabzak Pass. Senan will continue access assuring operations until March, at which point they are expected to be able to continue the rehabilitation of the pass, with their UNOPS funded project.

Final approval from MRRD is expected in order to allow SFL to carry out MRRD funded snow clearance operations from Shindand to Shahrak in Western Ghor province.

During the weekly logistic meeting in Kandahar, UNHCR informed that the distribution of Kerosene to the IDP camps is suspended. The unavailability of Kerosene in the Southern areas is a sensitive issue and would lead to an emergency state. According to UNHCR an amount of 300,000 litres is urgently needed, which will be only 50% of the real needs of the winterisation programme. Iranian/Afghan traders were previously supplying Kerosene to the Southern Area. During the past few weeks Milak border was closed, by the Government of Iran, to any tanker transporting kerosene into Afghanistan. This greatly reduced the amount of Kerosene generally available in the region. Only a very limited quantity coming from Pakistan is available in Kandahar; hence, the purchase price rose to more than double of the normal market price.

To address present winter needs, UNHCR has transported required items to the waiting area (Chaman border) and other refugee camps. Blanket is the main item for the winterization package, for which, the scale distribution is one blanket per person.

10. OTHER

UNAMA has asked for UNJLC's help in compiling information on hazards in the Western Area. This information will then be used at Kabul level in a nationwide hazard and vulnerability mapping process. UNJLC are working to collect the information through IFRC whose links with national Red Cross units at provincial level offers a potentially high level of data.

UNJLC is in the process of planning a further series of driver training courses aimed at drivers from the UN, NGOs and the Afghan Government. To date, Handicap International has agreed to undertake the mine awareness component of the courses while CHLC will instruct on vehicle maintenance.

Together with implementing partner PIDS, UNICEF Quetta has almost completed the construction of thirty-five mud house structure schools in all new refugee camps. Out of total 56 schools, 42 were constructed in year 2002. The remaining 23 schools are scheduled for the year 2003.

The newly formed Anti-drugs formation has been conducting operations in Nangahar province to eradicate poppy cultivation. To date little reaction against these operations has been reported. However, it is reported that the scale of the operations is very small and the effectiveness is particularly limited.

UNJLC Islamabad

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E-mail: UNJLC.Islamabad@UNJLC.org
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