Afghanistan Weekly Update No. 319

Situation Report
Originally published
Afghanistan Support Group
The ASG met from 21st to 22nd June in Stockholm. Representatives from 16 donor countries, UN Agencies, ICRC and NGOs attended.

The meeting drew attention to several concerns. First, they recognised that the lack of national reconciliation negatively affects donors' willingness to engage. The meeting also expressed concerns over reports of expanding poppy cultivation and forced repatriation of refugees from Iran. They appealed to the governments of Iran and Pakistan to reaffirm their commitment to refugees' rights to asylum and protection.

In view of the existing low level of social capital in Afghanistan, the meeting also recognized the need to build human and community capital inside the country in order to help Afghans solve their own problems. In addition, there was general recognition that many opportunities to address rehabilitation needs exist at the community level. In general the meeting emphasized that donors want to keep Afghanistan in the picture and are seeking ways and means to ensure funding for this next year.

The ASG also noted with concern the relatively low level of response to the Consolidated Appeal (CAP). So far, only 41 million dollars has been pledged out of 112 million dollars identified as high priority funding. Of this 41 million, only 29 million comes in response to the Appeal, leaving a shortfall of some 84 million dollars in priority funding for 1999.

The next ASG meeting will be held in Ottawa in December 1999.

Gender Mission

The Gender Advisor to UN Afghanistan, accompanied by a team from the Office of the UN Coordinator, recently traveled to Kandahar.

They began a dialogue with local authorities and aimed to identify opportunities to move forward with the UN social and gender agenda.

Through negotiations with the authorities, key technical departments, and representatives of the local community, the mission made a first hand assessment of field opportunities for establishing partnerships with local players to address the problems encountered by the social sectors in Afghanistan.

As part of the gender plan of action, specific activities have been developed to mainstream gender issues at the programming level of the UN system in Afghanistan. These include workshops organised and facilitated, agency by agency, by the Gender Advisor to the UN Coordinator's office to move forward with a common gender policy and programming methodologies.

Forest Fire in Kunar Province

Following the forest fire in Dar-e-Paich, Degal and Shorak Districts of Kunar, the UN over-flew the area twice last week. On the second round, the mission did not spot either flames or smoke in the area on Wednesday. This may indicate that the fire is out.

Food Aid/Food Security

The WFP emergency food distribution operation in Waras and Panjo districts of Central Highlands was completed on 18th June. The operation, implemented by OXFAM lasted a total of four weeks and mobilized twelve WFP national staff members. A WFP team monitored the distribution of over 2,000 MT of food to over 12,500 families.

The second phase of the operation plans to target over 12,000 families with an additional 2,000 MT of food. A significant number of internally displaced families may be included in the operation subject to availability of WFP stocks. The operation is scheduled to get underway by the end of June in the districts of Behsud 1 and 2,Wardak Province.

Contingent upon food availability in the North, WFP has approved two food-for-work projects for Mazar-I-Sharif with 266 MT of wheat. This is the first time that WFP has approved projects for the area since 1997. Food-for-work will be used for digging 50 wells, equipped with hand-pumps, excavation of drainage ditches, cleaning public toilets, and the collection of solid waste under the sanitation project. The project will employ 3,600 labourers and 50 female managers to be remunerated by UNCHS in July. WFP also approved a third project in which 162 tons of food will be provided for 1,500 kindergarten children.

Community fora will implement all three projects.


The director of Rural Rehabilitation Development (RRD), male/female monitors and UNICEF staff monitored the final examinations of the community-based home schools in Laghman.

In Kabul, UNICEF paid monitoring visits to various local educational and vocational institutes for normal and hearing-impaired children.

WHO started the restoration of the Nursing School for Women in Herat. One hundred women are studying in this institution.

Outbreak of severe diarrhoea in Ghazni, Kabul & Kandahar

Acute diarrhoea has broken out in Jaghori district of Ghazni, Kabul City, Spin Boldak in Kandahar, and Kunduz. Over 4,700 cases have been traced out over the last three weeks. 51 people have died so far. Investigations are continuing to ascertain the cause of the disease.

In order to increase public awareness of measures they can take to prevent and control diarrheal diseases the Oral Rehydration Therapy / Hygiene Education and Sanitation campaign was held in all regions of Afghanistan on 20th to 28th June. In preparation, UNICEF and WHO conducted training of trainers and of health workers in many areas of the country.

The ORT/HES campaign is just one part of UNICEF's assistance to Afghanistan. The Health and Nutrition Programme includes the Expanded Programme on Immunisation and National Immunisation Day campaigns specifically against polio; the Safe Mother Initiative which aims to lower the high maternal mortality rate; and support to the primary health care system throughout the country. Other components of UNICEF support include Control of Diarrhoeal Diseases (CDD), Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI), Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT), Hygiene Education and Sanitation (HES), and nutrition, with focus on micronutrient deficiencies and breast-feeding.

The Ministry of Public Health is the programme's counterpart, with implementation dependent on many national and international NGOs throughout the country.

Health Training

WHO conducted training on malaria control and treatment in Kandahar and Herat and on anaesthesia in Kabul for female and male medical personnel. In Kunduz, WHO conducted two workshops on Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) and surveillance for medical doctors from Kunduz and Baghlan Provinces including seven female doctors.

Safe Water / Sanitation

The Rural Rehabilitation Department (RRD) organised a one-day practical training for community masons, who are constructing household latrines under UNICEF's water and sanitation (WES) project, in Narang District of Kunar Province. Five wells, dug by Narang communities, were equipped with handpumps, bringing the total to 70 out of 100 planned. These 5 handpumps will benefit 1,500 people. In Shinkorak, Kunar, the design for the Pipe Water Supply Scheme has been completed. UNICEF will provide the supplies to RRD Kunar to start the project.

An evaluation mission was undertaken in Badghis where the WES project was completed in May. All handpumps were functioning properly and latrines being used by families. RRD Badghis improved / installed 100 handpumps in Muqur, Qal-e-Now, Qarghach, Firistan and Tagab-I-Ismail Districts in Badghis. Seven handpumps were installed and 10 double pit latrines were constructed in Gozara district of Herat Province.

The female health educators visited 1000 houses in Mahterlam City in Laghman with health and hygiene messages. They also collected data on hygiene practices for compilation by UNICEF.

UNICEF's current Water and Environmental Sanitation (WES) programme is the largest provider of water and sanitation systems in rural areas. With the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development as the major counterpart, the WES programme aims to construct or rehabilitate handpumps, dug wells, boreholes, latrines, piped water systems, and sanitation systems. Community participation is critical in the siting, construction and maintenance of the pumps and wells. The programme also delivers messages on hygiene.

Medical supplies

WHO provided kits to 40 traditional birth attendants (TBAs) and village health volunteers (VHVs) in Herat. WHO also provided furniture and medical / surgical supplies to a health centre in Zabul Province. WHO has rehabilitated the center with the cooperation of UNHCR and WFP. WHO provided a variety of medical supplies in Ghazni, Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan, Kunduz, Mazar, Jalalabad, Faizabad, Bamyan, Herat and Kabul.

Reconstruction and Rehabilitation

UNCHS continued to support urban communities in Kabul, by assisting community-based education, income-generation, and shelter rehabilitation and sanitation activities. As a result, 105 cubic meters of solid waste were removed, 300 sqm asphalt road was repaired and 172 cubic meters of drainage system was excavated.


UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Herat are expecting some 1,500 possible returnees from Iran. UNICEF has provided blankets, plastic tarpaulin, handpumps, water purification tablets, ORS, water containers and essential drugs to IOM for distribution among the returnees.


26th June marked the worldwide observance of International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

UNDCP organised activities in Kabul and Jalalabad and refugee camps in Pakistan. In Islamabad, UNDCP organised a fun fair for families, in collaboration with the Narcotics Drug Control Division of Pakistan.

According to UNDCP, an increase in opium poppy production is nearly certain this year in Afghanistan, but some concrete steps are being taken by the local authorities, and new programmes should create positive results.

In 1998, farmers cultivated an area of around 63,000 hectares, but the crop was lower than expected (2,100 MT) because of bad weather. This year, the overall zone of cultivation has increased and new areas have begun cultivation of poppies.

Because of UNDCP dialogue with local authorities in Afghanistan, 34 processing laboratories in Nangahar Province were closed earlier this year. In Mid-May, the Taliban had also begun an eradication campaign in Kandahar Province, with a likely 400 hectares being eradicated.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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