Afghanistan

Afghanistan: UNJLC Bulletin 06/2003

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1. SECURITY
As reported last week, ACTED faced a number of confrontations on the Salang involving the local commanders. The issue was reported at the Road Task Force (RTF) meeting on 21st January and re-addressed at the RTF meeting on 28th, January. Although ACTED does not want to disclose the names of the commanders, due to sensitive political reasons and has decided to handle this issue internally, the Coalition has been asked to drive through the Salang at least once a week to monitor the area and avoid harassment of humanitarian workers.

Tensions are reportedly increasing in the North with reports of minor clashes in Balkh, Jawzjan, Faryab and Samangan provinces. Increased presence of armed personnel was observed in Gusfandi village of Sangcharak district and reportedly military posts have been establishes on some hill-tops overlooking the city. Minor conflicts were also reported in Sholgra and Quchi Quizel areas.

Conflicts in Badghis continue and reports indicate increased banditry in the West. In Herat several business premises have broken into. On 28th January, a fatal traffic accident was reported near the Governor house in Herat.

Tensions prevail in Bala Murghab with an increase of government troops deployed; however, no report of casualties was received. UNHCR security officer will travel to this area during the week to assess the situation.

Some vehicles were seized in Qala-I Naw and Qadis for troops movement purpose. Shindand was reported relatively calm, although some troops movements occurred.

On 27th January, an MCPA de-mining team was hijacked while travelling back towards Farah from Khaki Safed district. The armed robbers detained the staff for several hours before they drove off in the MCPA vehicle. The vehicle was later found stuck in a ravine.

In the past week Kandahar has experienced marked increase in the number of security incidents. On 25th January, a mine exploded beneath a tractor, on the outskirts of Kandahar city. On 26th January, an unknown device detonated beneath the vehicle of RONCO de-mining team. The team was driving in Kotal Murch area located in the North of Kandahar city. Minor injuries were reported. An Afghan military vehicle was targeted with a similar device on the same day. One soldier was killed and several injured.

On 29th January, an explosive device was thrown into the ACF compound in Kandahar. There were no casualties; however, considerable blast damage was reported. On 30th January, an explosive device, planted outside a commander's residence blasted in Temoryan of Dand district, killing his two children.

On 31st January, a bus carrying 16 passengers detonated an explosive device as it approached a bridge some 10 km South West of Kandahar; 12 casualties were reported.

The Eastern Area remains volatile and is affected by several intricate issues including inter-factional politics, ethnic divisions, Coalition operations and poppy eradication campaign. Coalition forces continue to operate in Kunar and Nangahar provinces. The situation remains tense in Nangahar provinces following last weeks attack on UNHCR police escort and continued resistance from poppy farmers of the community. UN missions to Khogyani region are currently suspended.

The suspension of missions into Nuristan district has been lifted. The area remains calm and peaceful.

On 26th January, 24 rockets were reportedly discovered by ISAF in the Shina district; four rockets were primed for firing. Subsequently, two people were arrested.

The police chief for narcotic investigations in Logar province was kidnapped. Investigations are underway.

A staff member of CARE was robbed and assaulted on his way to the international airport on 29th January.

2. CIVIL MILITARY RELATIONS

CHLC awaits the approval from CENTCOM regarding the reconstruction of Bala Murghab bridge. The preventive maintenance course details, for the upcoming Drivers Training workshop, have been prepared by CHLC.

UNAMA Mazar has recently collected comments of other agencies on 'UNAMA Draft Guidelines' on Civil Military Relations. Apparently the new manuscript would complicate cooperation between the military and humanitarian agencies in terms of rehabilitation projects and information sharing.

UNJLC together with UNOPS has managed to acquire fuel for the Afghan helicopters involved in whooping cough intervention. The last helicopter departed from Faizabad for Kabul on 2nd February with sufficient fuel for the flight.

3. AIR OPERATIONS

Most air strips have been reported cleared and open, although a few flights were cancelled by both UNHAS and PACTEC and postponed due to poor visibility and snow. PACTEC reported that refurbishment of the Taloqan airfield will begin shortly with Mercy Corps' collaboration. Rustaq has been certified air worthy, and the first chartered flight is to be carried out in the coming week.

Mazar airport authorities received funds for restoration of the runway. Operations will start next week.

4. TRANSPORT CORRIDORS

Solidarites has reported that as of Monday, 3rd February, Hajikak Pass was open only for 4x4 vehicles. Trucks and light vehicle could not traverse the pass.

Shatu Pass between Yakawlang and Panjao is still closed. The UNJLC/UNOPS/MRRD team is working in the area using 80 daily workers. The team has cleared 2 Km stretch past the Shatrak Pass from the North. It is expected that the Pass will open in the coming week.

The Sadberg Pass is open although large accumulations of snow are reported. Chains are required and small cars are not recommended.

The route from Panjab to Lal is reported accessible. Nevertheless, commuters should expect delays due to drifting snow. The Panjab -- Chagcharan and Lal - Dai Kundi corridors are also reported open. The Lal - Kundi supplementary pass is closed with access only to the Eastern side of the Takht Pass. The supplementary road from Lal to Chagcharan is partially accessible. The UNOPS/MRRD daily workforce is working on improving the road conditions.

As of Wednesday 29th January, over three metres of snow has been reported in Bamyan province. The primary road from Bamyan to Yakawalang is open. However, the secondary road from Bamyan to Yakawalang through Pasroya is blocked. The Aqrabat Pass between Bamyan and Saighan is reported drivable.

Hajikak Pass, on the way from Bamyan to Behsud, remains blocked on the Southern side due to accumulation of snow that now measures close to 50 cm. Madera expects that this will be cleared during the week.

The Salang Tunnel is open. Due to the recent snowfall and avalanches, implementation of the unidirectional traffic flow resumes. The risk of avalanches was reported high. Please note that the Salang remains open one way, but might be closed if the avalanche situation deteriorates. The overall accumulation of snow has been reported around three metres.

Clearance of the route between Shindand and Shahrak is underway in Ghor Province. SFL currently has 405 labourers employed to clear the Nakhoti, Kashker, and Charkhana Passes. Consequently the route is clear for traffic.

In the North East, the route from Taloqan through Faizabad to Ishkashim is reportedly open.

5. TRANSPORT SECTOR

UNJLC vainly attempted to meet with the Head of the Department of Transport to receive formal notification of those transport companies registered with the authorities in Herat along with details of their fleet composition. UNJLC will again approach the Department of Transport to request this information in the coming week. Reasons of violation of the signed Umbrella Agreement will also be requested, as there seem to be unwillingness on the transport companies' part to respect the agreed rates.

A consolidate estimated distance matrix has been distributed to UN and NGOs agencies in order to ensure accuracy in distances currently used. Agencies have been asked to clock and report distances to UNJLC, in order to compare and integrate them in the existing data. This, combined with the recently agreed transport umbrella rates, should provide the humanitarian community with stable data allowing for effective forward planning.

For the Northern Area, WFP has obtained new approved transport rates for the forthcoming three months. However, the latest rates are not yet released.

6. FUEL

The average price of Diesel in Afghanistan ranged during the week between USD 0.25 (Kandahar) and USD 0.29 (Kabul). The average price per litre of Petrol ranged between USD 0.30 (Mazar) and USD 0.32 (Kandahar). The average exchange rate in Afghanistan, during the same period, was between AFG 46 (Mazar) and AFG 46.51 (Kandahar) per USD 1.

During the week, prices of Diesel in the North and North East Areas of Afghanistan ranged between USD 0.23 (Pul-I-Khumri) and USD 0.30 (Faizabad). The Petrol prices in these areas ranged between USD 0.25 (Pul-I-Khumri) and USD 0.30 (Maimana and Faizabad). The week's average Exchange rate in Faizabad, Kunduz, Taloqan and Maimana was AFG 46 per USD 1.

7. WAREHOUSING

With reference to Qala-I Naw Government warehouse, currently utilised by a number of NGOs warehouse, UNJLC facilitated a meeting between IOM, World Vision, Alisei, UNHCR, GTZ and UNAMA. The objective was to discuss the issue - raised by the Deputy Governor of Badghis Province - of payment up to 26th January and future payment for the subsequent year. According to the agreement, no payment should be made for the year 2003. The agencies involved also emphasized on the fact that this loan of a warehouse should be considered as Government's contribution to the general humanitarian effort.

On his visit to Qala-I Naw on 4th February, Mr Roque Roymundo will raise the outcome of the meeting with the Deputy Governor of Badghis Province.

8. TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE

As a follow up to the River Engineering courses conducted by senior SHA road expert, Hans Staempfli, in November - December 2002, UNJLC is pleased to announce dates for the second phase. These workshops will be conducted in Dari, by trained Afghan engineers to their colleagues from Ministries, NGO's, UN Agencies, and IO's. The courses will be held in Kunduz from 20th February to 21st February; in Faizabad from 23rd February to 24th February; in Mazar-I Sharif from 26th February to 27th February; in Herat from 4th March to 5th March and in Kabul from Saturday, 8th March to Thursday, 13th March.

The first workshop in Kabul will be arranged for students from the Engineering faculty at Kabul University. The second session - from 11th to 13th March - will be held for qualified engineers from various organisations. Manuals of the River Engineering text, as well as certificates to those who attend for full duration will be given to the participants. Please send applications for participation to Farzana Rasheed at Farzana.Rasheed@unjlc.org. Alternatively, UNJLC field offices can be contacted to confirm registration and for any further queries.

UNAMA is currently in the process of assessing the project of Qala-I Naw bridge construction.

A joint UNJLC/MRRD evaluation would be carried out to assess the two bridges of Argo in Badakhshan province.

9. WINTERISATION

Snow-clearing activities will most probably be halted during the Eid-ul-Azha holiday period, which is likely to be from Wednesday, 12th February to Saturday, 15th February. Humanitarian agencies travelling or transporting goods during this time should take this factor into account.

In view of winterisation, UNJLC is making efforts for extensive coverage of transport corridors throughout the country. For this reason a separate account has been setup. Reports and inquisitions concerning the accessibility of passes and routes could be sent to the UNJLC e-mail account snow.reports@unjlc.org.

MRRD Kabul has given their approval to MRRD Herat to release the equipment for the snow-clearing activities in the West. Equipment would be deployed in the coming week.

UNOPS has set up five contracts in Qadis district for clearing mud at three critical sites - Khak Pulak, Ruigi and Gilak; operations are under going.

The road from Maimana to Laulash village, Kohistanat district is blocked by snow. WFP has yet to deliver ration for two months to the village and has hence sent a team to find possible alternatives for delivery. WFP has already transported food to Teylan village, located about 60 km from Maimana, by trucks. This is the last point reachable by trucks. The last part of road from Teylan to Laulash is about 35 -- 40 km and the overall snow accumulation is reportedly one metre.

On 4th February, UNJLC organized a three-day joint UN/MRRD mission to Sortepa district of Balkh province where flood destroyed more than 236 houses. The mission aims to assess the situation and collect information of the present needs.

Ragh, Darwaz, Kahan and Wa Khan Districts of Badakhshan province remain isolated. WFP Faizabad, accompanied by UNAMA, FAO, NAC, FOCUS, MRRD, Ministry of Agriculture representatives and an adviser from the French Embassy in Kabul used the helicopter to monitor food distributions in the area. Food distributions are ongoing and no major problems were observed.

Around 92 % of the 4,454 MT of WFP food, dispatched to inaccessible areas in Nuristan, Kunar, Laghman and Nangahar Provinces, has been distributed; 48 % of the 21,000 MT of food, dispatched to inaccessible areas in Bamian, Wardak and Uruzgan provinces, has been dispersed. In the West, 72 % of the planned food requirements have been disseminated; 82 % of the 7,400 MT of WFP food dispatched to inaccessible areas in Balkh, Sari Pul, Faryab and Samangan provinces, has been dispersed. An amount of 5,928 MT has been distributed, representing 57% of the total food requirements for the North East.

DACAAR started the third allocation at the project site in Herat. A total of 131 MT of food was distributed to 4,400 beneficiaries. The first phase of food distributions in Pasaband and Taiwara districts of Ghor province has been completed. MADERA will resume distributions within a week.

UNHCR has completed the identification of beneficiaries in the East. A total of 2,531 families have been identified as eligible beneficiaries across the region, out of which 486 are in Laghman, 42 in Kunar, 1,871 in Nangahar and 115 in Nuristan province. The type of winter assistance varies according to the location of beneficiaries; the areas are categorised into three groups -- cold, less cold and internally displaced living in camps. In addition to UNHCR package of non-food items, each family has received one family kit, two children sweaters, two pairs of shoes and other clothing items from UNICEF.

Distribution of non-food items in Nangahar province has been concluded, except for Khogyani and Hesarak districts due to the security restrictions. Out of 1,871 identified beneficiaries in this province, 1,459 families have received non-food items. Distribution of winter items in Laghman province started on 29th January.

The distribution of 2,750 MT of coal for internally displaced people in this area was finalised during the week. UNHCR distributed 625 MT to Mazar, 625 MT to Maimana and 1,500 MT to Shiberghan. Coal distribution in Mazar, under the resident urban vulnerability programme, has been completed in Districts 1-4 of the city. Coal allocation for 400 vulnerable urban resident families identified under the Goal/IRC winter programme in Maimana will be distributed upon completion of the IRC urban vulnerability survey.

10. OTHER

NGOs importing items in the North have reportedly faced difficulties with custom clearance due to the new regulations imposed by Customs Department and Ministry of Commerce. UNJLC Mazar held a meeting with MFA to discuss the issue.

WFP, ACTED and MRRD conducted a Rapid Emergency Food Needs Assessment (REFNA) in Nahrin and Jilga districts, Baghlan province, from 29th to 31st January in response to reports of food needs in the area, communicated by District representatives who visited Kabul. Conclusions indicate that increase of the already planned food aid allocations for Nahrin District is not required. In Jilga District, 80% of the population should reportedly be assisted with food aid for the next three months -- February to April. The increase from 60% to 80% as per initial VAM Countrywide findings is to support the population that has been covering and assisting the poorer groups, thereby depleting their food stocks and increasing their own vulnerability to food insecurity. A detailed final report will be circulated separately.

In the Eastern Area, two of the projects implemented by Human Concern International (HCI) in Marwara and Design & Construction Group (DCG) in Dangam districts of Kunar province have recently been completed.

ACTED and Goal, as a follow up on the status of the Kuchis in Khoshtepa in Jawzjan province, estimated that for about 500 families - where 350 Kuchi families reside in Turkmen Qodok - food is a priority. This group is reported particularly vulnerable since their herds have been almost completely depleted. Remaining stock is reportedly at further risk due to theft. Owing to the dispersion of the Kuchi population, exact numbers of those in need of food is not available. However, with the information available, the Task Force agreed that WFP would be requested to support these families with food.

From 1st to 17th January, 572 persons or 81 families repatriated spontaneously through Torkham border crossing, 181 through Nawa Pass (25 families) and 4,307 through Spin Boldak (662 of whom were in families). The total for the Pakistan border for that period was 5,060 persons. Islam Qala registered 3,389 and Zaranj listed 254 spontaneous returnees from Iran for the same reporting period.

UNJLC Islamabad
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Project Management: 2068
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Fax: +92 51 285 4942
E-mail: UNJLC.Islamabad@UNJLC.org
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