Afghanistan

Afghanistan weekly situation report Kabul 07-13 Mar 2003

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GENERAL ISSUES
Afghan Development Forum

At the Afghanistan Development Forum in Kabul, 13-14 March, the Afghanistan Transitional Authourity presented the Ordinary and National Development Budget for 1382(01/04/2003-31/03/2004). The budget emerged as a significant tool of administrative and fiscal reform, documenting the individual responsibility of the Ministers and the collective effort of the Cabinet in porioritising national programs and projects within the given funding restraints. UNAMA and the UN Agencies supported this process by agreeing to further prioritise their programmes and projects, that had been agreed upon in the context of the TAPA in December 2002, and assist the line Ministries in the Consultative Group process.

In a growing effort to demonstrate the growing efficiency and outreach of the ATA, the Government intends to raise more than USD200 million from internal resources, more than doubling last year's performance, and has set benchmarks for accountability, transparency and administrative reform in general. Reference was made to the contribution of UNAMA in strengthening the capacity of the Government and to the significant role of the NGO Community in providing much needed humanitarian assistance, while the Government also appealed to all components of the international community to recognise the responsibility of the Government for improving the lot of the people of Afghanistan and asked for enhanced support.

World Food Program 2003/2004

Within the framework of the United Nations Transitional Assistance Program for Afghanistan (TAPA), and in support of the nation-building objectives of the National Development Framework and the emerging National Strategy for Social and Livelihood Protection, WFP has formulated a Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO). The PRRO will commence in April 2003 and is designed to contribute to the protection and re-establishment of livelihoods and household food security by providing assistance to over 9.2 million beneficiaries over two years. The total food requirement for the two years will be 618,989 MT of commodities, valued at $337.5 million. According to WFP's Countrywide Food Security Assessment, 4.3 million Afghans in rural settled areas still lack sufficient resources to meet basic food needs. Food aid is critical, particularly to carry them through the lean pre-harvest period, when stocks from previous harvests are typically depleted and coping mechanisms exhausted. In urban areas, the large numbers of returnees and IDPs, some 360,000, or approximately 10 percent of the urban population, are vulnerable and need assistance to meet their basic food needs. These are the families without breadwinners, who cannot participate in income generating activities.

Two-thirds of the resources will be used for recovery activities such as Food for Work, focusing on community-level rehabilitation of infrastructure; and Food for Education, including non-formal education for women, adolescent girls and ex-combatants; distribution of Indian biscuits to schoolchildren in food-insecure communities; and support for teachers nationwide. Relief activities, which will use only one-third of the assistance funds provided, will support returning refugees, internally displaced persons, the acutely malnourished, and vulnerable households. The activities conducted under WFP's PRRO will have a stronger emphasis on recovery activities than on relief.

Winter assessment

With the support of UNAMA, the Ministry of Reconstruction and Rural Development and the Ministry for Urban Development and Housing conducted a joint monitoring of the UNAMA Winter Response program in 11 urban sites, including Kabul, Jalalabad, Bamyan, Gardez, Khost, Kanadahar, Farah, Herat, Mazar, Maimana, Kunduz and Faizabad. The project promoted inter-ministerial cooperation and contributed to capacity building of the MRRD/MUDH staff through joint programming and implementation of the surveys with UNAMA. The week-long surveys consisted of random surveys of both recipient and non-recipient households, as well as wakils, local shura members, the mayor, and the implementing NGOs in each site. Preliminary results indicate that Cash For Work (CFW) was unquestionably the most popular component of the program and it was considered to be less susceptible to fraud by beneficiaries and local pressure groups while allowing beneficiaries to purchase goods according to his/her own need. Findings also suggest that beneficiaries prefer work for assistance and/or cash to free handouts.

REGIONAL ISSUES

CENTRAL HIGHLANDS region

Several cases of meningo-toxaemia were reported in Begal valley, Saighan, last week. three children died and another is currently under treatment in Bamyan hospital. A team of medical agencies visited the area on 10th March, with UNICEF/ MOPH support. Their full report is awaited, however initial findings confirm that no further cases have been identified.

CENTRAL region

At a Provincial Coordination Body(PCB) meeting an encouraging change was seen in an unusually open discussion of key issues presented by the provincial governor and department heads. With a reduced number of participants this mechanism has the advantage of improved interchange between officials and organizations. The provincial governor is increasingly improving his management of the PCB meeting, although the department heads continue to be weak in setting the agenda within their respective domains. This is mainly due to lack of technical skills among political appointees, difficulties in collecting and compiling information from districts in the province due to both the mere physical distance and lack of communication means, as well as absence of an adequate supportive administrative structure in the districts.

UNAMA, with the assistance of NGOs, is organising workshops on basic coordination skills training over the coming weeks in Wardak, Logar, Parwan and Kapisa.

The province Kapisa is no longer considered to be in an emergency phase. Therefore medical assistance provided by MSF-F and ICRC will be phased out by the end of March , to be utilized more urgently elsewhere in the country. It is assumed that the provincial hospital will be allocated funds out of the National Budget.

Concerns continue over the resettlement of the IDPs and returnees that presently live in the public buildings in Kabul city. Families from the Khusal Khan High School evicted during the week have sought shelter in nearby neighbourhood living in makeshift shelters. Of the 87 families evicted from the school, 27 have been identified by IOM and UNHCR as eligible for return assistance, while the remaining 60 families have received Non Food Items from the assistance community. While land is available for this remaining caseload and funds can be sought to assist in the construction of houses, the MUDH is reluctant to pursue this option fearing that the ministry and municipality will be swarmed by thousands of IDPs and returnees claiming similar rights and assistance. Discussions with the authorities are in progress but no quick solution appears at hand. UNAMA is actively seeking assistance from the MUDH, Municipality, donors and organizations to address the problem.

In view of a reduction of the UNHCR budget by 32% in the context of the Afghan National Budget for 1382 (2003/4) and a further indicated reduction of 50% for 1383, considerable difficulties are foreseen regarding the resettlement of an expected one million returnees this year, many of them anticipated to settle in the Central area.

Encouraged by continuing efforts by of UNAMA area office, a women's Affairs director has been appointed in the province of Wardak. In the traditional and male dominated environment of the province known to be somewhat hostile towards improving the conditions for women, the appointment is a significant development. In the past girls' schools have been targeted and destroyed and women's participation in the civil society and public sphere is feeble compared to other provinces in the Central Area where NGOs or departments have women employed in middle management positions.

WESTERN region

The ongoing IDP exit strategy has encouraged the repatriation of a total of 5000 individuals to-date. As a follow-up initiative to recent reviews of the IDP exit strategy, a return commission meeting is to be held on 18 March. The commission will have inter-area representation, covering the UNs western and southern operational areas. Food package reduction will be discussed in the coming week as part of the overall reduction in camp services. Two health NGOs will progressively downscale the health services they provide in the IDP camps as its population diminishes. Tuberculosis sufferers will continue to receive food aid from WFP for the length of time required for completion of their treatment.