Afghanistan Weekly Update No. 316

Situation Report
Originally published
The Humanitarian Situation in Central Region: A Mid-Year Perspective
About one-quarter of Kabul's one million residents receive some form of humanitarian assistance from international organizations. The current extent of destitution is the culmination of years of hardship and displacement, with many families forced to sell the bulk of their material assets to survive.

Despite predictions to the contrary, life in Kabul did not come to a standstill after the partial withdrawal of support for humanitarian programmes (along with a number of NGOs) in July 1998. The core emergency feeding programmes have continued, despite disruptions and the most vulnerable continue to receive external assistance. Without significant investment in infrastructure, rehabilitation or commercial development, however, employment opportunities are few. While many civil servants are maintained on the official payroll, salaries are irregularly paid, if at all.

Given that many people are food insecure, the state of public health facilities remains a cause for particular concern. As stocks of externally-supplied drugs are used up, and staff fail to be paid on time, fewer and fewer patients seek care at (free) public facilities, and are forced to go to private clinics, when they can afford them.

Despite an acute lack of resources, rudimentary public services continue, with up to one-third of the city's population having access to electricity and piped water. While there have been attempts of late to recover some of the costs of such services, given the extent of unemployment, many families cannot afford to pay. Without additional humanitarian support for the most vulnerable, it is difficult to see how they will survive the next winter.

Kabul-based organizations continue to take stock of ongoing and planned assistance activities. A summary of ongoing and planned UN activities has been provided to aid partners and local authorities. NGOs have begun a process of information and data collection on activities in Kabul and its environs.

Efforts to extent additional assistance to the war-affected population of the Shomali Valley (northern Kabul, Parwan Province) continue. This fertile area, served by an extensive irrigation network, is of potential significance for the food security of the region. While many returnees were able to re-build their homes during 1993-1994, subsequent fighting has resulted in widespread destruction and displacement of rural communities. Reports from the area speak of high food prices, due to restrictions on transport across the existing front lines or from the north, and a breakdown of health and other public services. Efforts by UN agencies and NGOs to transport essential supplies by land to the area continue to face obstructions.

Preliminary indications are that crop production in the area declined in 1998 due to lack of inputs and rust disease. If production in 1999 does not improve, families dependent on purchasing their food will be unlikely to meet their minimum food needs.

Food Aid/Food Security

The first shipment of 600 MT of WFP provided wheat was distributed in Waras and Panjao to 3,874 families. The second convoy carrying 550 MT of wheat for 4000 families has arrived in the Hazarajat region. Together with OXFAM, WFP is targeting the most vulnerable residents and internally displaced persons in Panjao and Waras districts. The distribution is due to be completed by 20th June.

Following food shortages during 1997/1998 associated with a blockade of Hazarajat, the population of this remote area continues to be vulnerable, with most families having few remaining assets. Despite significant displacement as a result of recent fighting and consequent food shortages in some districts, a continuing programme of WFP wheat distributions in the region since late last winter has enabled many families to survive in their areas of origin. Continued instability could further reduce access to food, and limit the activities of humanitarian agencies in the area.

The WFP Vulnerability Analysis Mapping (VAM) exercise in Mazar-I-Sharif has been completed. The most vulnerable households are those whose income comes from male casual labour. The currently saturated labour market is bringing wages down and excluding potential labourers. These families earn 70 percent of their minimum food and non-food expenditure needs or the equivalent of US$4.00 per month. These households were more vulnerable in 1998 than female-headed ones. Vulnerable families are selling households assets to augment income; this activity increases their minimum income to US$7.60 per month. Households without an able bodied male receive a substantial proportion of their income from begging. They continue to earn significantly less than the minimum income, but more than families with able-bodied male breadwinners.

Preliminary findings from the FAO and WFP crop assessment mission suggest that crop production may be low for 1999, particularly in the northern regions. The main problem is lack of precipitation in the surplus crop production areas.

On 3 June, the WFP bakery project in Jalalabad closed as planned. A re-targeting of beneficiaries is scheduled for August and September.


The second regional trainer-training programme on Action for the Rights of the Child (ARC) organized by UNHCR Pakistan and SAVE US was held in Islamabad. This is the first batch of regional trainers on ARC trained any where in the world.

The Regional Trainers will train personnel involved in programmes for Afghan refugees inside Pakistan beginning in September 1999. ARC materials will be included in all training programmes for teachers inside Afghanistan.

UNHCR has funded the printing of 36,000 textbooks in all subjects for schools in Azro-Tizin and Herat. The organization has also developed and printed teachers' guides for these texts. The guides have so far been distributed in Kabul and Kandahar, while in Azro/Tizin, UNHCR distributed the text books to nearly 2000 children, as well as stationery for children and resource books for teachers. A training programme for teachers in these schools is planned for early June.


UNICEF and WHO in collaboration with the MoPH are preparing for the second round of National Immunization Days in all regions in Afghanistan from 13 to 15 June.

A joint mission of the Ministry of Public Health, UNICEF, WHO and the Regional EPI Management Team visited Helmand, Nimroz and Zabul Provinces to meet with local health authorities, NGOs and provincial EPI management teams. The mission evaluated the first round of NIDs and prepared for the second round.

For reasons of security, the first round of the NIDs was delayed in the northern province of Takhar Province. However, by the beginning of June, immunization was completed in Takhar by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, in cooperation with Medicins sans Frontieres (MSF), public health management teams, UNICEF and WHO.

Since the first round of NIDs could not be conducted in Bamiyan, WHO has sent the vaccines to three districts to be used for polio immunization when the situation permits.

Medical Supplies and Services
WHO collaborated with Jalalabad University and Health Net International to establish a blood bank at the University hospital. The hospital is mainly for gynecology, obstetrics and pediatrics and serves as a referral centre for three provinces of the eastern region.

WHO distributed medical supplies to clinics and hospitals in Nangahar, Ghazni, Paktika, Kabul, Logar, Helmand, Zabul, Kunduz, Baghlan, Faryab and Balkh.

In Mazar-I-Sharif, WHO started construction of the Mazar Public Hospital Emergency ward.

Primary health services were provided to Azro, Tezin, Jarubi and Sarobi, four PEACE Initiative-selected districts of Logar and Kabul, where the number of residents has increased due to the recent repatriation. The project, run by Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA) International, in collaboration with ISRA, has been funded by UNHCR.

Nearly half of the 1900 patients were female, and 45% of the total were children under 15.

Health Training
In order to identify the needs and priorities for their community and accordingly plan activities by UNICEF, a local shura (council) was formed in Liwanian village of Paktia Province.

Rural Rehabilitation Department social mobilisers reached 300 people with messages about health, hygiene, breast-feeding and the dangers of early marriage and pregnancies.

In preparation for the Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) and Hygiene Education and Sanitation (HES) campaign, WHO began training of trainers in Kabul's Miwand Hospital.

Safe Water/Sanitation
Under UNICEF's water and environmental sanitation program, thirteen wells were equipped with hand pumps and handed over the communities in Gardez and Narang Districts of Paktia and Kunar Provinces. These will benefit some 4,000 people. So far, 60 wells out of 100 planned have been completed.

As part of the UNCHS sanitation programme in Kabul, a number of female health educators have been involved in efforts to promote health education, environmental sanitation and hygiene.

Reconstruction and Rehabilitation

In quake affected areas of Wardak and Logar Provinces, the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) continues to support the repair and reconstruction of 13 schools and 49 wells which were damaged or destroyed in the earthquake.


Animal health and production improvement courses have started in Jalalabad, Khost and Kabul. Forty-two veterinarians are attending the one-year course.

In Shindad district of Farah Province, one of the PEACE Initiative areas, turkey chicks have hatched and turkey eggs are currently being incubated.

FAO released 37.5 MT of wheat from WFP for SCA summer crops seed procurement and continued distribution of summer crops for further multiplication purpose in Nangahar and Kunar Provinces.

FAO research farms in Mazar-I-Sharif and Taloqan Province continued recording maturity data, roguing of wheat research trials, small wheat seed multiplication plots, harvesting of barley research trials, preparation for harvesting wheat research trials and small seed multiplication plots.

FAO distributed 31MT summer crop seed to 202 contract seed growers, harvested 25 wheat demonstration fields in five districts and monitored nine private fruit tree nurseries growers in Kandahar.

Mine Action

Five persons were injured in an unexploded ordnance incident last week in Kabul. In order to build up the technical capacity of mine action teams, MAPA has extended courses to survey teams in Kabul.


According to UNHCR 5,000 Afghan refugees from Pakistan have returned to the eastern and southern regions of Afghanistan during the last ten days.

Twenty-one Tajik refugees returned from Kunduz to Tajikistan via Sher Khan Bander on 3 June. UNHCR provided transportation and negotiated their safe passage with the warring factions through the front lines.

Before the return of a group of 300 families from Balochistan, UNHCR has signed an agreement with the local NGO VARA for the rehabilitation of the Upper Bagat canal in Garmser District of Helmand Province.


In an UNDCP pilot project for poppy eradication, the UN drug agency has verified that 400 hectares of poppies were destroyed in three districts of Kandahar Province.

According to the agreement in the pilot project, poppy production in the three districts was to be reduced by 20% in 1999, with the aim of 100% eradication in these areas by 2001.

Preliminary results of UNDCP's opium survey showed that the target reduction had not been met. Therefore, the community was asked to eradicate some of their poppy fields in order to meet the proposed reduction in 1999.

Local authorities, representatives of the aid community working in the province, national and international journalists, and Kandahar-based diplomats witnessed the eradication.

As part of the pilot project, UNDCP is collaborating with FAO and other partners in providing assistance which will enable farmers to move away from poppy production. For this purpose, improved seeds are being distributed in the three districts, and forty shallow wells have been completed in Maiwand district.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit