Afghanistan Weekly Update No. 304

Situation Report
Originally published
UN agencies operating in Afghanistan continue to seek resources to provide additional shelter materials for some 16,000 families whose homes were destroyed or damaged by the 11 February earthquake.

UN staff, members of the Red Cross movement and several NGOs have been bringing supplies, medical equipment and technical assessment teams to the affected area in Wardak and Logar Provinces.

The total population of the affected region is estimated at 400,000. More than 7,000 families have already received relief supplies, including tent tarpaulins, plastic sheeting, blankets and medical supplies.

UNICEF and the Norwegian Church Aid have been assessing the overall health of the affected population. WHO and the Red Cross movement treated injuries early in the emergency operation. The Government of Italy has donated medical kits to the effort, which will be distributed by WHO.

While food has not yet been deemed a priority, WFP has loaned a dozen trucks to the relief effort and some 40 tonnes of emergency food for severely affected families.

Temperatures still fall to freezing at night in the earthquake-affected areas south of Kabul and there is much concern about the risks of acute respiratory infection for those living in temporary shelters.

The UN has pledges and other resources amounting to US$300,000. Further, UN agencies are seeking an additional US$250,000 for tents, tarpaulins, blankets and plastic sheeting.

Save the Children (US) distributed 3,000 blankets to those left homeless by the earthquake to help combat the effects of exposure to the cold.

Pledges and Contributions

The Government of Sweden has made a contribution of US$750,000 for the protection of Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries and for the repatriation and reintegration of returnees to Afghanistan.

UN Coordinator Mission to Kabul

UN Coordinator, Erick de Mul, accompanied S.E. Brahimi to Kabul on 28 February 1999, for discussions with the Taliban authorities over, among other issues, the prospects for the return of UN international staff to Afghanistan.

Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan

The coming year is a significant one for the UN's Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan (MAPA), as 1999 marks its ten year anniversary. It is the UN's largest humanitarian mine action effort. During the period, MAPA has expanded dramatically from a few hundred staff to well over 4,000. MAPA has continually increased its operational outputs, contained costs, improved safety and pioneered the development of a number of innovative new clearance techniques.

MAPA's accomplishments include awareness education to over four million persons, clearance of 330 sqkm of minefields and battle areas, and destruction of 180,000 mines and 730,000 UXOs.

To meet further challenges during 1999, MAPA intends to support the establishment of a new demining NGO to operate in Kandahar; increase the number of minefield survey teams; add mechanical backhoes into the programme for use in Heart; revise the mine awareness curriculum and undertake in conjunction with the World Bank, a more thorough cost-benefit analysis of mine action in Afghanistan.

BBC Afghan Education Projects

The Afghan Publishing House of BBC Afghan Education Projects (AEP) continues to provide Afghan children illustrated storybooks with messages of peace, tolerance, unity, learning and cooperation.

BBC AEP announces the introduction of two more storybooks to its collection. Both stories make reference to the year 2000, which has been declared as the International Year for a Culture of Peace by the United Nations General Assembly.

"The Rabbit" portrays the need for peace, where one can cultivate, help the needy, work and move around freely. It also stimulates the reader to learn numeracy skills in a very subtle and interesting way. "The Old Man & His Sons" is about a father, who is frustrated by his sons' selfishness, intolerance and disunity, which becomes a barrier to their prosperity. Finally, he devises a practical masterpiece that demonstrates the value of unity and tolerance.

The books, published in Dari and Pashtu, can be obtained from the BBC AEP, in Peshawar.

Assistance Update

Central Region

UNCHS distributed winter relief items, including charcoal, laundry and body soaps, sweaters and clothes for children to over 1,000 families in Districts 3 and 9. They also removed solid wastes from various districts of Kabul. Work continues on the US-OFDA-funded sanitation project in District 4, with collaboration of the Kabul Municipality.

UNICEF continues to support the hygiene education and social mobilization, EPI acceleration programme, construction of bore wells, installation of handpumps and sanitation projects in Kabul and Logar Provinces.

WFP released 545 tonnes of wheat for institutional feeding, bakeries and food-for-work projects in Kabul.

UNOPS/ARRP has undertaken the rehabilitation of Surobi-Tezin road and reconstruction of Naghlu Bridge, WHO is organizing a three-week EPI Acceleration Programme in urban areas of the country. Almost 800 vaccinators, health workers and volunteers will be trained in 60 sessions.

A coordination meeting on water and sanitation was held in Kabul. Representatives from MoPH and other technical institutions, UN agencies, ICRC and NGOs dealing with water supply and sanitation activities in the central region participated in the meeting.

FAO Crops distributed spring wheat seeds with a matching quantity of mineral fertilizer in Kabul and Logar.

FAO Livestock sent anti-rabies vaccines to control the reported outbreak of the disease in Wardak.

The Battle Area Clearance technical survey and clearance started activities in Kabul after a six-month suspension. The operation is now going on in the priority areas of Kabul and its environs.

Eastern Region

The UNICEF-run EPI Acceleration Campaign and education and health programmes are ongoing in Jalalabad, Laghaman and Kunar Provinces.

FAO Crops planted five cultivars of potato trials in the Sheshambagh research station, continued mechanical control of weed on wheat and barley research trials, distributed moist stratified fruit seeds and mineral fertilizer and trained farmers to use better agricultural techniques in the region.

Northern Region

WHO provided medical supplies and continued to control the unknown ailment in Badakhshan.

According to WHO-Geneva epidemiologists, who visited Darwaz District of Badakhshan, the clinical impression of the apparently unknown case seems to be that of an influenza-like illness, which has affected a large number of people in the area. There is a high risk of secondary complications (mainly pneumonia) with high excess mortality. With apparent symptoms of acute respiratory infections associated with the muscle pain and diarrhea, the disease has claimed 200 lives since its prevalence in the area.

UNCHS in Mazar installed a new water supply scheme at Gozre-Qurghan in District 2. This was accomplished with an 80m deep well. In addition three handpumps were installed in Gozar-e-Chetgari, Kamaz IDP camp and Mokhtar Mosque in District 7.

The environment programme distributed 30,000 fruit and non-fruit trees to all of Mazar's 10 Districts. The distribution took place through the Community Fora in the districts.

FAO Crops continued the control of weeds, recording stand data of wheat and barley trials and preparation of spring planting of vegetable crop and rice in FAO own research farms in Mazar and Takhar.

Southern Region

WHO provided supplies to TB centres, and conducted training courses for 150 vaccinators, volunteers and supervisors in Kandahar.

FAO Crops planted ten tonnes of foundation wheat seed of different varieties, distributed and planted over 400 tonnes of barley and 200 tonnes of wheat seed in Kandahar, Nimroz and Farah Provinces.

FAO Livestock supplied two fishponds, monitored sheep herds for the effect of molasses blocks and vaccinated 2,000 sheep in Kandahar.

WFP released food for institutional feeding, repatriation and food-for-work projects in Kandahar, and distributed (in collaboration of IFRC) wheat and BP-5 biscuits to the victims of the rainstorm, which caused sever destruction to 95 houses in Helmand Province last week.

Over 100 families and 1,000 individuals have returned from Pakistan and Iran to their areas of origin in the southern region.

Western Region

UNCHS sanitation, drainage, construction and water supply projects are ongoing in Herat and Farah Provinces.

UNHCR fielded a mission to monitor the situation of returnees in Enjil District, and evaluated the restoration of the Herat Public Library.

FAO Livestock distributed 60,000 doses of vaccines and veterinary instrument to Veterinary Field Units, conducted technical courses to train women and men in livestock development, and monitored poultry farms in the region.

WFP Herat is planning to field a mission to monitor the progress of ongoing institutional feeding and food-for-work projects in Farah Province.

UNICEF provided handpumps and accessories, cement, kerosene, education materials and medical supplies to IDP camps, schools, clinics and hospitals and trained 120 health workers, vaccinators and volunteers for implementation of the EPI Acceleration Campaign in Heart.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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