Afghanistan

Afghanistan: UNJLC Bulletin 08/2003

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1. SECURITY
Tensions have eased out in Maimana due to Eid with some troops movement observed leading out of the area.

Two minor security incidents involving UN staff and property were reported over the period. On 10th February, a UNHCR vehicle was involved in minor traffic accident inside Mazar city. Moreover, a UNHCR national staff experienced a robbery attempt at his residence in Maimana city.

US Security Forces conducted an operation, in cooperation with Jamiat troops, in the area close to Chemtal city on 8th and 9th of February. The operation was carried out to identify explosives, ammunitions and activists. However, nothing was reportedly found.

The issue of Gufsandi remains; the uncertainty of the current situation and political / inter-factional disputes continue. The area is therefore suspended for all UN missions.

Situation remains tense in Bala Murghab and Ghormach due to armed groups' movements in the area. Missions to the areas may proceed on case-by-case basis. In the coming week, a security mission by the A-FSCO would be carried out for Badghis province.

On 12th February, an explosion was reported outside the UNHCR office building in Kandahar city. No damage or injuries were reported. Investigations are ongoing.

Fighting broke out between the local commanders in Tulak district during the past week. Casualties and reasons behind the clash are not available. Initial assessment indicates a probable personal dispute amongst local commanders. The security officer of the Western Area is closely monitoring the situation.

On 14th February, a robbery was reported on Solidarity's main office in Kabul city; the guard and radio operator were tied up and a small safe was stolen. No injuries were reported. Authorities are investigating.

During the last week, Pagman district experienced an increase of robberies and home invasions conducted by local bandits. Confiscation of heavy weapons in the Sorobi district was reported. No arrests were reported.

Minor clashes between Mujahedeen commanders were reported in Parwan district. Tensions remain in the area; the central office is monitoring the situation.

In the past two weeks, there have been numerous security incidents on the Salang. Some of them have involved ACTED local staff being beaten by local commanders in an attempt to control traffic. The matter is being taken up with concerned authorities. Other incidents have involved vehicles - carrying opium and arms - stopped at military checkpoints controlled by local commanders. These incidents resulted in the death of two people. One of these vehicles was allegedly from an NGO.

2. CIVIL MILITARY RELATIONS

The handover ceremony for the change of command - from Turkish to German - of APOD Kabul was held on 17th February. In the course of handover, Colonel Burkhard Pototzky took command from Colonel Kazim Ondul.

In Herat CIMOC plans to provide assistance such as training and rehabilitation of government institutions. Humanitarian agencies in the region also hold a similar strategy. Therefore, in the coming weeks, a coordination meeting would be held between CIMOC, UNAMA, UNJLC and other concerned agencies to define a clear line of action and avoid duplication of efforts.

CHLC awaits the approval from CENTCOM regarding the reconstruction of Bala Murghab bridge in Badghis Province.

Due to some concerns about the Coalition's involvement in UN projects, WFP Mechanics will present the preventive maintenance course during the Drivers Training that is coordinated by UNJLC. The first session of the training started Tuesday, 18th February.

3. AIR OPERATIONS

A new air service, 'Aseman Airlines', is reportedly flying into Kabul. UNSECOORD will follow the issue of formal ruling and utilization of this internationally recognised facility.

Due to bad weather conditions, heavy snowfall and poor visibility, flights in and out of the country were mainly cancelled during the week.

Mazar Airport authorities received an amount of 482,000 Afghans for gravelling all craters on the runway. Previously, five craters have been gravelled and the remaining eight would be concluded in the coming days. The plan of Phase I is to complete the gravelling in Kabul, Herat and Mazar within 40 days. Later in Phase II, the craters will be fixed with asphalt or concrete. This final stage will be carried out under the supervision of engineers from Kabul. However, concerns were raised that asphalting could alter the angel of the surface of runway. The supervision of engineers is therefore important to ensure that the surface of the runway remains standard.

4. TRANSPORT CORRIDORS

Due to harsh climatic conditions several missions have faced difficulties, especially in the Central and North Eastern Areas. All road and air missions into Afghanistan are recommended to carry spare food, warm clothing and battery chargers in case of unexpected delays. Furthermore, snow chains are essential for all road missions around the country.

As of 18th February, the road from Bamyan to Yakawlang was reported closed due to heavy snow accumulation. The Shatu Pass is open from Yakawlang to the top of the Pass and is closed from the top of the Pass to the Panjab side. The Yakawlang to Sad Berg Pass route is closed but is expected to reopen within the coming days; however, the use of snow-chains remains obligatory.

Panjao to Lal is closed due to large avalanches, whereas Lal to Chagcharan is now open with UNOPS/MRRD daily workers improving the pass. Also the Lal to Dai Kundi and the Lal to Dai Kundi supplementary pass are closed.

The stretches between Siah Dara and Jawz and Jawz to Nilli and the mountain passes Jawpullal, Bande Kosa and east part of Qunag were cleared between Saturday, 15th February and Sunday, 16th February, however the use of snow-chains is highly recommended. The Korak pass and the Korak stretch, for vehicles coming from Nilli and Korga villages, remains blocked. Over 3 meters of snow has accumulated in this district. As at Sunday February 16th, the Chapalak, Bande Barlan and the Spezarak passes have been cleared. These areas are in the Central Highlands close to Day Kundi.

Avalanches have continued on the southern side of Salang in the Paridagi region, resulting in a snow accumulation of 8 meters. ACTED and MoPW are working together to remove the snow from the road. Subsequently, the Salang Tunnel is temporarily closed for traffic until further notice. The tunnel would re-open on Friday, 21st February, provided the weather conditions are feasible.

Due to heavy snowfall in the region the Hajikak Pass remained closed The Shibar pass and the Aqrabat pass are now open but vehicles must be equipped with proper snow chains.

In the West, weather conditions were reported clear and mild; thus no logistical bottlenecks were occurred in the past week.

5. TRANSPORT SECTOR

New customs clearance regulations are reportedly put in place by the President's Administration in Kabul, instructing all Customs Offices throughout the country to - upon receiving any commodities, especially medicines and food items - send samples to the respected Ministries for detailed tests and quality checking. The cargo will be customs cleared and free for further distribution only if it is approved to be suitable for use. The issue creates a lot of constraints especially in emergency cases.

To obtain more information on new procedures, UNJLC has requested a meeting with Head of Customs Office, which would later be sent to Kabul for further consideration.

6. FUEL

The average price per litre of Diesel in Afghanistan ranged during the week between USD 0.24 (Mazar) and USD 0.29 (Kabul and Herat). The average price per litre of Petrol ranged between USD 0.30 (Mazar) and USD 0.34 (Kabul). Moreover, the average exchange rate in Afghanistan during the same period was between AFG 46.16 (Kabul) and AFG 50 (Herat) per USD 1.

During the week, prices of Diesel in the North and North East Areas of Afghanistan ranged between USD 0.23 (Taloqan) and USD 0.31 (Faizabad). The Petrol prices in these areas ranged between USD 0.28 (Taloqan) and USD 0.32 (Faizabad). The week's average exchange rate ranged between AFG 46.30 (Kunduz and Pul-I Khumri) and AFG 47.50 (Maimana) per USD 1.

7. WAREHOUSING

No developments were reported during the reporting period.

8. TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE

Due to harsh weather conditions the UNJLC River Engineering Workshops have been rescheduled. The first session of the two-day workshop will be held in Kabul, followed by courses in Herat, Mazar and Faizabad. Applications for participation can be sent to Farzana Rasheed at Farzana.Rasheed@unjlc.org or UNJLC field offices.

The first workshop in Kabul -- starting tentatively from 27th February - will be arranged for students from the Engineering faculty at the Kabul University. The second session will be held for qualified engineers from various agencies. The detailed schedule will be announced in the coming Bulletin.

9. WINTERISATION

Heavy snow and avalanches blocked the Salang tunnel during the past week, thereby severely hampering the movement of people and goods including humanitarian supplies. In the last two weeks, the Salang has experienced over ten avalanches. ACTED has sent experts to the tunnel to clear the remaining snow - that could block the route - with controlled explosions.

In Nuristan, Kunar, Laghman and Nanghahar Provinces 100 % of the 4,454 MT of food WFP dispatched to inaccessible areas has been distributed. Work progress and food movement in some parts of Nuristan Province was delayed because of snowfall and deplorable road conditions. Although all food has been distributed, some of the activities planned were suspended.

In Sharistan - one of the poorest areas of the Central Highlands - 159 MT of mixed food commodities were distributed to 2,467 beneficiaries. The local NGO DHSA, responsible for the distribution, is implementing FOODAC projects such as road, irrigation canals and Karez rehabilitation.

To date 76 % of the planned food requirements have been distributed in Herat. However, because of Eid holidays, no monitoring/ distribution was carried out in the target areas during the reporting period.

A total of 94 % of the 7,400 MT of food WFP dispatched to inaccessible areas in Balkh, Sari Pul, Faryab and Samangan provinces has been distributed.

A Solidarites team departed on 16th February to Roy Duab district in Samangan province for the verification of beneficiary lists, which have been prepared by the village leaders. WFP will send a monitor to assist the verification and review the beneficiary selection process. Solidarites will start the distribution on 22nd February that would be finalized by 25th February.

FOCUS completed the distribution in Kahan district. Distributions in Darwaz are ongoing. Movement of food across the Tajik-Afghan border, to be distributed in Shughnan district, started this week.

WFP monitors are in Wakhan to supervise the food delivery to the Pamir villages.

In Herat, no snow was reported over the last week; however, given the recent rains possibility of floods is high in the rural areas.

10. OTHER

WFP met with different Ministry representatives to discuss the results of the assessment of the Kuchis in Koshtepa, as well as the next steps required to ensure that adequate assistance is provided including protection concerns. Additional meetings will be held with MRRD, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and the Governor of Jawzjan, with participation of representatives from Balkh Province. Considering the sensitivity of the issue, GOAL expressed interest in conducting the distribution in close coordination with MRRD and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

At least three Afghan children, under the age of five, have reportedly died in Chahab District of Takhar Province from an unidentified disease suspected to be Meningitis. WHO has sent an investigation team to the area comprising of doctors from the Afghan Ministry of Health and the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan. A helicopter mission went to Chahab district on 12th February, where the three cases were identified along with two cases of pneumonia. Doctors with the WHO-supported team could not confirm any related deaths and believed that they are isolated cases. Local clinic has been supplied with medicines to treat the patients and the situation will be monitored in the coming weeks.

UNJLC Islamabad
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