Afghanistan weekly situation report Kabul 15 - 21 Sep 2002

Relief, Recovery and Reconstruction
Critical Issues

In most respects the security situation has been generally quiet, particularly in the north and west of the country, however, the continued tensions in Khost and rocket attacks on Jalalabad have destabilized the SE region.

The Operational Task Force for Winter Preparedness will convene next week, however, planning is ongoing in all area coordination offices, especially where winter is of particular concern; Northeast, North, Central Highlands, West, South and Kabul City. To date, the data collection efforts have concluded that there are approximately 2 million people nation-wide in need for assistance for the winter.

WFP's VAM survey results expected at the earliest to be released in two weeks. Short-term improvement in the pipeline enabled doubling rate of dispatch compared to last month.

Poppy cultivation season is two months away and there needs to be a comprehensive reconstruction program for the area and particularly for the ex poppy growers.

Central Area

Security Situation: Phase 3

The Central Area saw several attempted incidents over the reporting period.

Due to the continued tension in Kapisa province a joint mission was sent on 17 September to investigate the security situation. The report of this mission has yet to be released.

Provision of Assistance

In Kabul city, there was a follow-up meeting to respond to winter preparedness efforts during the reporting period involving four international NGOs (Acted, CARE, Medair and Mercy Corps International) in addition to UNAMA, Kabul Municipality and UN HABITAT. The Kabul Municipality in collaboration with each of the NGOs, in this effort, will provide lists of vulnerable families. Distributions will then take place only to those that fit the agreed vulnerability criteria. Additionally, each of the four NGOs will work through the district-level Municipality officials, thus helping to create ownership by the Municipality over the process, as well as building the capacity of municipality officials for the following winter's response. Cooperation the coordination will continue amongst the four NGOs and municipality officials in terms of monitoring the response and follow up.

At the above meeting, UN Habitat distributed a draft report regarding the winterization strategy for Kabul City that will be presented to the MRRD.

Over the past week, UNAMA has also been engaging multi- and bi-lateral donors as well as NGOs that are working the central region, for information on food-for-work (FFW) projects, cash-for-work (CFW) projects, and income generation projects throughout the area.

An office for Women's Affairs has now been set up in Wardak province.

In Logar Province, the provincial women's council has elected two women as their representatives. One of the women was also a female delegate to the Loya Jirga. The Women's Council representatives are currently undertaking a survey of widows and orphans throughout the province.

The Governor's of both Wardak and Logar provinces stressed the need for drinking water given the severe shortages in both of their provinces. UNICEF is, reportedly, planning to fund drinking water projects in Wardak.

Central Highlands Area

Security Situation: Phase 3

The security situation remains unchanged.

Provision of Assistance

The Area Coordination Body in Panjao has reviewed plans for winterization, both for meeting food needs of vulnerable populations, and for maintaining and keeping roads open. It has appointed lead NGOs to take charge of assessing and coordinating these needs in each sector. Initial figures from the districts, also informed by the WFP VAM vulnerability assessments for 2002, indicate that up to 330,000 people, about one fifth of the total population for CH, may need some measure of food support in Central Highlands during the winter. As far as possible such support will be given through Food for Work projects in order to reduce dependency and encourage community self help.

There is a proposal to support of the US based NGO CHF, to keep open the vital north-south road between Yakawland and Panjao. This includes the Shatu Pass, which has year after year proved the bane of vehicles of all types, commercial, private and assistance alike, during the 6 winter months. This year there are strong hopes it can be kept open, along with some 24 other key roads in CH, and some airstrips.

The Governor for Bamyan Province, has just completed a tour of his southern districts, which include Panjao and Waras. He has on behalf of the Central Government appointed new governors, deputy governors and commanders in those two districts, in such a way as to include each of the main rival factions in a balanced way. This offers some hope for future stability and cooperation between parties in these areas, where inter-factional rivalry was causing concern.

The Commander in Sharistan has made threats to take over the clinic run by ACF in Sharistan by force. The clinic at the moment is with the Ministry of Public Health. A meeting between the Governor, ACF and Area Coordinator UNAMA has agreed that discussions will take place with MOPH and central government and provincial level on future cooperation on these premises, before any peremptory action takes place.

Western Area

Security Situation: Phase 3/4

The security situation in Herat and the surrounding area remained generally calm.

According to the government security focal point, Ismail Khan is reinforcing his old military bases. The RFSO assesses no real security implications for humanitarian operations at the moment.

On 17 September, an international consultant of an HRW together with a translator, driver and a civilian were arrested by Herat police near Puli Pashtu bridge of Herat city. The officials at DMFA office released the consultant, his translator and driver after investigation, while the civilian, was detained and sent to the intelligence department for further investigation, and then released the next day.

Provision of Assistance

WFP's VAM survey results expected at the earliest to be released in two weeks. Short-term improvement in the pipeline enabled doubling rate of dispatch compared to last month. Meetings between WFP and key government bodies and implementing partners have been held as part of preparations for the Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation phase due to begin next year.

UNICEF has started a measles campaign in Badghis province (targeting a population of 107,122 children, 6 mths to 12 yrs) in addition to a mission looking into local production of iodised salt.

Reports of the first round of fall National Immunization Day in Herat, Farah and Badghis indicate a total coverage of 839,600 children.

Refugee returns have returned to previous levels, approximately 1500 per day, but there has been an increase in the number of deportations, including unaccompanied minors, following strong official pressure on Afghans to return.

In the IDP camps, the last batch of returnees booked for return numbered 60 families. No significant increase in the number of new arrivals has been reported so far, although there has been a steady flow since the last three months as the return rates continued to drop. Health situation in Maslakh camp is under control and no outbreak has been reported, however, the main morbidities still remain Respiratory Tract Infection (RTI) and diarrhea.

An inter-agency mission has been arranged with participation of UNHCR, WFP and UNAMA to Obeih district (Herat) in order to prevent potential displacement of an estimated 500 individuals due to lack of needed assistance.

Southern Area

Security Situation: Phase 4

The security situation remains calm in most of the region except Uruzgan where it is relatively volatile.

Provision of Assistance

UNDP has established the REAP/PIU (Recovery, Employment Afghanistan Project/Planning Implementation Unit) office in Kandahar. The Japanese Government with a total of US $3 million is going to fund the program with the supervision of UNDP. REAP is going to focus on labor-intensive projects in order to create jobs for Afghans and increase the people's purchasing capacity. The priority projects are going to be in roads reconstruction, reconstruction of demolished social service buildings, and collection of solid waste.

WHO reports that although tremendous efforts have been underway to eradicate polio in the country, a total of 7 polio cases have been reported nationwide, of which 3 cases are reported in Southern Afghanistan.

Since 15 August, in Zhare Dasht IDP camp, 1240 IDP families have been relocated from Chaman. The following progress has been made to date: 241 sanitation kits to 241 IDP families have been distributed, 35 improved wells including hand pumps and apron have been completed and 17 wells are still under drilling process.

Poppy cultivation season is two months away and if the government enforces a ban on poppy cultivation there needs to be a comprehensive reconstruction program for the area and particularly for the ex poppy growers.

Northern Area

Security Situation: Phase 4

The reporting period was generally calm, although continued fighting and tension in Qala-e-Shahr.

Provision of Assistance

A draft winter preparedness strategy, including an overview of available and anticipated winter stocks is being developed with local authorities, UN agencies and NGOs in the Northern Area. For the Northern Area specifically, this exercise will continue in order to fine tune and ensure an integrated and coordinated strategy and response.

On 17 September, WFP held a one-day workshop with local authorities, UN agencies and INGOs to provide input into the development of their Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation for 2003-2005. Key to the workshop was a series of discussions on possible intervention strategies for both urban and rural vulnerable groups as well as Refugees and IDPs. Additionally, recovery programming within the context on FFW, FoodAC, FFT, FFS and Agriculture and Resource Management was also explored. Outputs of the exercise, which will be incorporated into WFP's countrywide PRRO, will expand on the following issues: 1) the role of food aid in securing sustainable livelihoods; 2) determining what strategies are appropriate for which vulnerable group, province/district; 3) determine where food aid (FFW) is most appropriate or where it can be complimented by CFW for greater impact; and 4) intervention strategies towards sustainable livelihoods.

Four FoodAC projects were suspended due to food shortages in the WFP pipeline, reducing the total number of on-going FoodAC projects to 13.

In Mazar, a total of 120,000 beneficiaries received bread from on-going bakery projects. The Afghan Ministry of Women Affairs Committee helped capacity building of bakery cooperatives in Mazar with training women bakers on financial management of the bakeries.

UNHCR, with a number of implementing partners, has formed a task force on returnee monitoring. The objectives of the monitoring task force and the activities to be implemented include: to provide a general overview on areas of origin; identify assistance needs and vulnerability, and, where feasible, provide basic initial reintegration assistance in order to contribute to the sustainability of return movements; and ensure that basic human rights are accorded to the returnee populations. The monitoring, which is expected to cover all districts of Balkh, Jawjan and Sar-e-Pul provinces will commence imminently and continue over the next two years. The target population group will be inclusive of refugees and/or IDPs who have returned to their place of origin.

Due to the ongoing conflict in Qala-e-Shahr, displacement of the local population over the last three months has been reported. The renewed clashes over the last week raise further concern that additional displacement may have occurred as a result. It has been suggested that approximately 200 families (if not more) have been displaced over the last three months to the villages of Khawal, Khamideh, Pai Dijak. In order to assess the level of displacement, the degree of vulnerability, and the scope of need, UNHCR and UNAMA are expecting to support an assessment mission to the area with other UN agencies and key NGOs in the region.

2,500 families from Sakhi camp have been assisted in their return to their areas of origin, primarily Sar-e-pul, Faryab, Jowzjan and Balkh provinces. Prior to their return, a mass information campaign was launched jointly between the assistance community and the authorities to ensure that IDPs made informed decisions regarding return. The camp was officially closed on 15 September. The land and remaining assets from the camp have been handed over to the authorities to assist other vulnerable communities.

Northeast Area

Security Situation: Phase 3

The general security situation is calm in the reporting period. However, there are reportedly, remnants of activities of Taliban and Al-Qaida network ongoing in the region. There are reports of regrouping and plans for sabotage activities targeted at the international staff working in the region. The office will continue to closely follow the situation.

The fightings in Dawarz district of Badakhshan province continues to be a major concern in the area. Due to inaccessibility by vehicle to the area, no new information is available yet. But the office will continue to report any new development.

Provision of Assistance

UNAMA held a series of meetings with provincial authorities and humanitarian agencies working in Badakhshan province to introduce UN HABITAT's urban winterization strategy in Faizabad. It was agreed that a task force consisting of the Mayor's office and nominated agencies would collect the figures of the city's vulnerable population. The agencies concerned are: Afghan-Aid, PRB, WHO, FOCUS, ORA, the Municipality and UNAMA. The task force was expected to present the figures by 19 September.

WFP, for its 2003/2005 programme, plans to support the health sector in Badakhshan province through provision of FFW for rehabilitation of health facilities throughout the province. For this to be successful, agencies working in health and MOPH will need to make contributions in terms of other materials that will be required. This proposed programme will be tabled for discussion with WFP Kabul in early October.

Eastern Area

Security Situation: Phase 3

Security within central Jalalabad remained generally good during the reporting period, however, there are still reports of Coalition activity in Kunar province.

All main roads are open except UN road missions into Kunar and Laghman province are only cleared for day trips. Effectively access to Nuristan province has been lost and this is the one province in the region where there has been no contact between the UN and the provincial administration.

The general security situation remained calm during the reporting period, as previously reported.

The most significant security incident affecting the UN during the week was on 17 September when two rockets struck the UNICEF office. One guard was injured and there was superficial damage to the office. It was concluded that the UN was not specifically targeted, although as a precaution UNICEF staff were kept out of the office and general movement was restricted for that day. The main security response to this is that all agencies are being urged to get their blast film applied to windows. Otherwise activities continue normally.

All missions to Kounar have been suspended since last week's mine attack on a US convoy in Kounar. Therefore no missions are permitted to Nuristan as well. Effectively, access to two of the four provinces in the East have been lost.

Provision of Assistance

The assistance pillar of UNAMA organized a meeting with implementing partners, to discuss the status of co-funded projects approved by UNAMA in various parts of the Eastern region, which were suspended due to constraints in the WFP food pipeline. Given the importance of the projects and the uncertainty in the improvement of the food pipeline there was a decision made to change the food component into cash so that the partners are able to start implementation.

Under the school rehabilitation program, WFP distributed 13,494 Mt to 8,136 beneficiaries. In addition, through the Department of Rations, WFP, distributed food items to Civil Servants in Kunar and Kaghman provinces, 3,901 and 1,758 respectively.

WFP has resumed food allocation for 19 suspended FFW and FoodAC projects.

A total of 26,939 students received hot bread and WFP informed that 90% of schools in the Eastern Region have recently started.

UNICEF has completed the 4th phase of the Measles Mortality Reduction Campaign in Noristan, Laghman and Kunar provinces, 47,810 children between the ages of 6 month and 12 years benefited from the campaign.

The NID campaign has been completed through out the region. Under this program 557819 under five children were vaccinated against polio.

UNHCR has facilitated, since January 2002, the return of 438,253 individuals (80,977 families). Although the process continues, the daily rate of return, according to UNHCR, has considerably reduced. UNHCR through InterSOS plans to facilitate the return of 9,572 IDPs from Kama and Behsod district under the voluntary repatriation program. InterSOS, has also finished the identification of beneficiaries in 8 districts of Nangrahar province (total of 5000 units). In Assadabad of Kunar province selection of shelter beneficiaries is on-going.

Southeastern Area

UNAMA is in the process of establishing an integrated office in Gardez. Security updates, as well as information received regarding relief, recovery and reconstruction activities will be provided.

Security Situation: Phase 3-4

The security situation remains considerably tense and volatile in this area.

Provision of Assistance

DSRG Nigel Fisher visited the provincial centers of Khost and Gardez town with the purpose to assess the situation, consult with local authorities and determine conditions for a stronger engagement by the UN agencies in this part of the country. Authorities have repeatedly requested the presence of more international NGOs and the UN to provide for recovery and rehabilitation support. Fisher was accompanied by the FSO for a security assessment and a field officer from Kabul UNAMA office for follow up regarding the assistance planning. UNHCR and UNAMA have offices in Gardez and UNHCR in Khost and there is a presence in the region of a few international NGOs.

In the course of the mission it was emphasized that a stable security situation is crucial for a broader assistance effort. For the shorter term and the winter season, Fisher has given priority to encouraging cash for work projects to start. For the medium term planning, an inter-mission will visit the region in the coming week to do a more concrete planning of priority action in the sectors of health and education. The UNAMA office in Gardez will be upgraded to provide services and a contact point in this area.