Afghanistan

Afghanistan Weekly Update No. 342

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Internally Displaced Persons
Across the Frontlines

The first phase of the UN crosslines assis-tance for Afghans from Shomali who were displaced into the Panjshir valley has been successfully concluded.

After positive negotiations with both parties to the conflict, the UN relief operation began on 2 December. The first phase ended on 10 December with the safe arrival of the fifth convoy. In total through the humanitarian corridor the UN has de-livered 750 tons of food and essential non-food items including warm clothes and blankets.

Further crosslines convoys will be needed to assist the displaced in Panjshir.

Children in Kabul

In Kabul, there are an estimated 8,000 chil-dren in the ex-Soviet compound (now home to 16,000 internally displaced persons). About 5,500 are older than six, of whom an estimated 2500 children have never been to school. A UNCHS, CARE and UNOCHA survey of the compound found that 2,913 families are staying in residence, of whom 718 arrived recently, while 95 families left during the last few weeks.

Two playgrounds have been established in the compound, which contain swings, a slide, a merry-go-round, a see-saw, a climbing frame, football, and vol-leyball. About 2,000 children are making use of this facility. In addition, CARE has constructed fences in dangerous areas of the compound where children could fall. Save the Children (US) has distributed 1331 heaters (one per room) and will distribute wood as well, while the UN has provided 1,200 kerosene lamps.

Action Contre la Faim regularly monitors the nutritional status of the children. Less than 1% severe malnutrition has been reported so far. The malnourished children have been referred to a mother-child heath clinic supported by ACF.

UNICEF, Save the Children (US) and Children in Crisis (CIC) are discussing educational activities for internally dis-placed children in Kabul. They also visited the two buildings provided by the authori-ties for use as schools. The renovation of these buildings in underway. UNICEF Kabul in collaboration with SCF-US drafted criteria for the selec-tion of teachers and head masters, which was approved by the Ministry of Rehabili-tation after a few modifications. It was agreed that the teachers would have to pass a test for both religious and modern sub-jects. Based on this 30 applicants were in-terviewed and 11 selected.

According to Aschiana, the number of street children has increased since dis-placed persons from Shomali began enter-ing Kabul in August. The survey of chil-dren working on the streets which was conducted by UNHCR, TDH and Aschiana in 1996 showed that there were 28,000 street working children in 10 districts in Kabul.

Food Security

WFP Afghanistan has expressed extreme concern about the increasing cost of wheat in Afghanistan, which follows a bad har-vest, tightening of border controls in Pakistan, and speculation in Afghan markets. Prices have continually increased since the beginning of October and reached their highest level in the second week of December. Pakistan is the major wheat supplier to Afghanistan.

Twenty to forty percent of vulnerable households in Kandahar, Kabul, Ghazni and various food insecure rural areas in the southeastern regions and Central Hazarajat have already been affected by the increase in prices. In Kabul and Kandahar, where imports make up at least 40 percent of the cereal supply, wheat flour prices have gone up by 83 and 88 percent respectively in the past ten weeks. In Ghazni, prices have increased by over 100 percent, and recently no wheat at all has been available in Ghazni.

While prices in some Afghan cities initially fell at the news of the opening of the Iranian border on November 21, they began to shoot up again one week after the announcement. Iran has never been an im-portant source of wheat for Afghanistan.

WFP also expressed concern about the food security situation in Kabul, the Central Highlands (Hazarajat), Central Ghor and Badakhshan.

UNICEF Launches State of the World's Children 2000

On 13 December, UNICEF launched the annual report The State of the World's Chil-dren 2000 in Jalalabad, capital of the east-ern Afghan province of Nangahar.

Over 150 men and boys, with a few international women, listened to Laiq Saeed, an 8-year-old boy who lost one leg and the fingers of one hand in a landmine accident three years ago, repeat quietly but forcefully, ôWe want peace, we want peace, we want peace.ö

The UN Regional Co-ordinating Officer noted that the basic needs of food, medicine and clothing have now become wants for millions of Afghans. He added that 35 per cent of all landmine victims in Afghanistan are children.

Mullah Abdul Kabir, Governor of Nangahar province and Deputy Prime Minister of Afghanistan, said that Islam emphasises childcare and service to others. It specifies the importance of breast-feeding for two years, and child nutrition. He noted that equity for girls and boys is an inherent part of Islam.

The UNICEF Resident Project Offi-cer in Jalalabad stated that in Afghanistan alone, 85,000 children die of diarrhoea every year.

A separate meeting to mark the launch of The State of the World's Children 2000 was organised for women on 12 December in Jalalabad. About 50 Afghan fe-males from the health and education sectors and international women from UN agencies and NGOs attended the meeting at Jalala-bad University Hospital.

The Afghan women declared that their main concern for the 21st century is the future of their children, good child health services, and an effective education system to enable boys and girls to achieve their highest potential.

The women also prayed for the restoration of peace in their country so that their children could grow up as peaceful citizens in a prosperous Afghanistan.

Health

A Health Co-ordination Committee Meet-ing was held at Herat Regional Hospital. The meeting, which was attended by WHO, MoPH, UN agencies and NGOs, discussed the improvement of health services in the Western region.

During the last week five female physiotherapy clinics were established in the five UNDP P.E.A.C.E. Initiative districts of Farah province. Well equipped with modern tools, the clinics will assist the poorest women in Farah province. They are managed by qualified female physiothera-pists, who were trained by UNOPS/CDAP last year in Kandahar.

Training

UNICEF Kabul organised a three-month basic training on midwifery skills, starting 7 December, with prior approval of the Ministry of Health. Eleven women from Logar province are participating in this course, which will be held in Malalai Hos-pital and supervised by the UNICEF female staff member in Kabul.

WHO conducted five-day workshop for 20 medical doctors on control, prevention, and management of complicated and non-complicated malaria cases in Kunduz province. The doctors in the workshop were taught how to properly manage malaria and how to utilise WHO guidelines during treatment.

Medical supplies

WHO provided full therapeutic require-ments for 100 tuberculosis patients at Herat Regional Hospital. WHO in close collaboration with WFP distributed 14.76 MT of food to the inpatient feeding programme in Herat Regional Hospital and 6.96 MT similar food to Herat TB Control Centre of the regional hospital. WHO also distributed anti-malarial drugs and equipment to the malaria unit of Imam Sahib District.

Education

With assistance from UNOPS/CDAP, 20 schools for girls and boys in the Kandahar region were started in November in Panjwai, Shege, and Arghandab. There are nine schools for girls, nine schools for boys, and two schools with mixed classes. These schools are fully supported by local Gover-nors and the planning department in Kandahar and managed by the local communities with assistance from UNOPS/CDAP and UNICEF.

In Kabul, UNICEF accompanied a delegation from OCHA to visit girls' and boys' home schools in Shara-e-Naw, Deh Dena, and Kartai. In all these places, teachers were busy teaching their classes, which were quite crowded with as many as 50 students. UNICEF provided education sup-plies such as pocket boards and cards with the alphabet. In one of these centres children's education is followed by vocational training in carpet weaving and shoe making.

In eastern Afghanistan, UNICEF held meetings with the Directors of RRD in Kunar and Nangahar provinces to discuss the progress of home schools in these provinces.

Water/Sanitation

In Jalalabad, WFP and WHO have agreed to begin the second part of the third phase of the Jalalabad city sanitation project. The first phase of this ongoing project took off in 1994, when WFP joined hands with an international NGO. Due to a major in-crease in Jalalabad's population after the influx of displaced persons from Kabul in 1994, the city's sanitation infrastructure was overwhelmed, and disease was on the rise.

WFP now works in collaboration with WHO on the sanitation project. Paid with food-for-work, labourers empty and clean existing drainage systems, dig drain-age canals, clean existing culverts and con-struct new ones, smooth and gravel the roads, fill in waterlogged areas and increase sanitation awareness in the community. Sixty percent of the city has now been cov-ered under the sanitation project, and 6,000 tons of wheat has been distributed as wages.

WHO supports female health edu-cators/social mobilisers and has formed community committees to ensure that the project is sustainable.

In Maidan Shar of Wardak province, the Kuhna Khumar pipe water supply project has been completed with the techni-cal and financial support of UNICEF.

In Gardez, five handpumps were installed on wells to provide clean water for some 2,000 people of the area.

DACAAR has completed a water supply and environmental sanitation project in Moqoor, Ghazni Province. The fifty wells and hand pumps will provide clean water to almost 1,500 families, while 150 baths and latrines will benefit 150 families. The community participated in the work and will now pay for the maintenance of the pumps via mechanics trained by DACAAR.

Agriculture

Livestock

One-week vaccination training for women in Kabul, Nangahar, and Logar provinces has concluded. Equipped with vaccination kits, the women will work as poultry vaccinators in their villages.

Animal health and production ac-tivities in 255 veterinary field units con-tinue to operate smoothly.

Crops: Locust Control

In northern Afghanistan, FAO continued surveys of sunn pest and locust egg beds. The semi-arid desert areas of northern Afghanistan provide a natural habitat for the Moroccan locust. In 1995, FAO moved away from using insecticide to help control locust outbreaks in northern Afghanistan. Instead, FAO opted to involve farmers in the mechanical control of this damaging insect. Mechanical control (e.g. digging trenches to trap the insects) reduces the amount of environmental damage--including the numbers of poisoned live-stock.

Communities have been trained on the life cycle of the locust and the identifi-cation and monitoring of locust egg beds. Since killing all the eggs is neither feasible nor environmentally desirable, when the eggs hatch, farmers dig trenches in the path of the young locusts, which cannot fly. Capturing the locusts in the trench, they bury them alive to wipe them out.

In 1999, over 21,000 farmers in northern Afghanistan received training in various kinds of plant protection. Over 4,000 farmers used mechanical locust con-trol on some 25,000 hectares of land. Since the inception of the mechanical lo-cust control programme, FAO estimates that it has prevented the use of 32,000 litres of insecticide, for a total saving to farmers of US$ 650,000.

Deforestation

A recent UNOCHA mission to the province of Kunar found that on average an estimated 100 trucks carrying timber ply the Jalalabad-Kunar-Torkham road each day. Kunar continues to be a disputed area, one reason for which is the profitable tax levied on these vehicles.

One of the most serious environ-mental issues in Afghanistan is deforesta-tion. In the short decade of the 1980's, forest and woodland cover shrank from 3.4% of the total area to 2.6%. In Kunar several years ago, huge forests bordered the main road. These have been ruthlessly cut.

In June 1999, the United Nations in Afghanistan called upon the timber industry outside Afghanistan to boycott timber from Afghanistan's shrinking old growth forests.

Narcotics

During the last month three integrated pest management sub-projects were completed in UNDCP target districts of Maiwand, Ghorak and Khakrez districts of Kandahar province. Under these sub-projects 50 community-based trainers were trained and equipped with modern techniques of pest management. Upon completion of their training they received pest management kits. These 50 community-based trainers will now support the needy growers of their districts.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.