Afghanistan Weekly Update No. 355

The government of Turkey has donated $15,000 in medical supplies to the Ataturk Children's Hospital in Kabul. The equipment includes an ambulance, an oxygen machine, and laboratory research materials.

The Drought

The UN/NGO task force on the drought in southern Afghanistan met last week. The geographical extent of the current affected area was defined as the provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, and Nimroz, with some effects seen in Zabul and Uruzgan. So far, livestock owners of the Registan desert, who are mainly Kochis, are most seriously affected. Some have lost up to 100% of their stock. The next worst affected are farmers, who are increasingly facing a lack of irrigation water from dried up rivers and karezes. Kandahar farmers are already suffering from the drought, while farmers in Helmand may be increasingly affected if rain does not fall in the next few weeks. Finally, urban dwellers are suffering from a lack of clean water and there is a possibility that even deepened wells will not provide water in the future. This lack of safe water could result in disease outbreaks.

The situation is likely to get worse because the period for rain is rapidly ending, and the next rains are not expected until December.

WFP is already providing emergency feeding for 30,000 families in areas of Kandahar, Helmand, and Zabul amounting to about 40% of the population of the areas covered. WFP Afghanistan has completed the first phase and will use in total 7,164 MT of food--200 kilos of wheat and 50 kilos of corn-soy blend per family. This will continue up to the end of April. WFP may also implement a series of food-for-work projects in these areas.

For livestock, UNOPS have bought up all the molasses blocks (6,000) in Kandahar and have distributed them to livestock owners; this small amount is all that is possible at this time. UNOPS has also started water conservation measures by building small dam walls in karezes, and will continue to promote water conservation.

Numbers of people and livestock affected are not yet known. WFP is currently updating its survey of the region to reflect the latest situation with special reference to the effects on the Kochis in the Registan. Additional information is expected via FAO Kandahar. FAO, Rome, have offered to finance a local consultant to survey the problem in more detail to help plan a response. FAO Livestock is reviewing historic animal numbers in the area and establishing stocks and manufacturing possibilities of urea/molasses blocks. UNCHS (Habitat) is reviewing the urban water supply situation.

Food Aid/Food Security

WFP Afghanistan has recently approved five new food-for-work (FFW) projects. In Kabul, FFW will be used for well construction and provision of 86 hand pumps, providing wages to 34 male labourers with 36 MT of wheat. The project will benefit an estimated 10,000 people. In Nangahar, a 75 metric ton FFW project for malaria control and construction of an MCH clinic will directly benefit 76 male labourers and 65 female health educators. In addition, in Nangahar, FFW will be used to re-excavate irrigation canals and to build a flood control dam, providing 43 MT of wheat to 90 male labourers and irrigated water to 7,000 jeribs of land. A FFW project to rehabilitate the water supply in Faizabad hospital will directly benefit 38 male labourers with seven MT of wheat, and will ensure a regular water supply to patients in the hospital. Through FFW, 62 male labourers, who will be paid 39 MT of wheat, will construct an MCH clinic in Kandahar.

WFP Afghanistan has committed 7,500 MT of wheat to work with UNHCR to repatriate 200,000 Afghans in 2000. It is expected that 100,000 people will return from Pakistan and 100,000 from Iran. WFP and HCR are beginning preparations for the imminent return of 3,000 Afghans per week from Iran in early April.

The Afghan NGO Agency for Re-habilitation and Energy Conservation in Afghanistan (AREA) has provided assistance to more than 1,000 families in Kabul displaced from Shamali during last summer's fighting.

AREA distributed iftari packages for 600 families for four days, which provided some 16,800 beneficiaries with wheat flour, cooking oil, and rice. In addition, a large number of families were also provided with zakat. The funding for this assistance was made possible by Muslim Aid (UK).

In addition, distribution of food and non-food items to the most vulnerable families from Shomali started in early March with funding from Muslime Helfen (Germany). More than 500 families will benefit during the three-month project.



In Kunduz, WHO investigated an outbreak of measles among internally displaced persons. A WHO team examined twenty-one patients under five years, of whom fifteen had measles. The team has provided medical supplies. The families of the children, about fifty, reside in a small school with three families per room. WHO in Kunduz province provided guidance to the MoPH Polyclinic and ARCS clinic on managing and preventing communicable diseases.

In Badakhshan, UN agencies and NGOs met at Faizabad Public Health Hospital to discuss the measles outbreak in that province. An outbreak in Kishem District reportedly affected 500 persons and killed thirty-five, while a joint MoPH and MSF medical team has reported that a measles outbreak in Gharan area of Ishkashim District has killed forty children.

In Takhar, the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) reports that the measles epidemic is still raging with undiminished strength. Six health teams from the SCA are vaccinating children in villages in the districts of Taloqan, Eshklamesh, and Farkhar. From Farkhar, the deaths of sixteen children have been reported.

There is still a lack of anti-measles vaccine. In addition to the vaccinations, the health teams are distributing vitamin A to affected children.


In collaboration with the MoPH in Jalalabad, WHO conducted the first batch two-week EPI training for thirteen health workers in Shinwar. The office also conducted a three-week training course for twenty traditional birth attendants (TBAs) under the umbrella of the Greater Azro Initiative in Hesarak District of Nangahar province.

Medical Supplies

WHO has provided medical supplies to three health centres and two hospitals in the eastern region and distributed WFP food to seventy-five patients. In the north, WHO provided anti-TB, anti-ARI drugs and medical supplies to Faizabad hospital and to Yaftal health centre and medical supplies to Kunduz MoPH Regional Hospital.


The CDAP/UNOPS community based education programme in Kandahar launched parents' meeting campaign. These meetings bring together students, parents, teachers, local shura members, and CDAP/UNOPS field workers to share views and responsibilities for management and promotion of ongoing education of boys and girls. They will also establish education committees within existing village shuras to manage community-based schools. More parents' meetings are planned to insure the sustainability and quality of the ongoing education programme.

UNHCR Pakistan has provided one-time financial assistance of five million rupees ($100,000) to the new Afghan University in Peshawar to help provide increased access and improve the quality of higher education at the only institution of its kind for Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

Run by Afghans for Afghans, the university opened in April 1999 following the merger of five Peshawar-based Afghan colleges. Today it has 1,529 students, including 576 women. For Afghan refugee women, the University is one of the very few outlets that offer access to post-secondary education in Pakistan.

The Government of Pakistan through its Commissioner for Afghan Refugees (CAR) has played an important role in the establishment of the new Afghan University. It has already contributed 4.2 million rupees to keep the university going. To encourage the continuation of this partnership, UNHCR is channeling its contribution through the CAR's Education Cell.

UNHCR's assistance will be used to purchase laboratory equipment for the women's wing of the Faculty of Medicine, to buy furniture for female students and to renovate the building housing the women's wing, and to pay salaries of some essential teaching staff.

The number of refugee women and girls participating in UNHCR-funded education programmes in Pakistan has grown dramatically over the past few years, suggesting a fundamental change in refugees' attitudes. In 1999, some 116,700 students attended UNHCR-funded schools in the North- West Frontier Province, Baluchistan, and Punjab provinces, of whom 33 per cent were girls. Overall registration rose by 11 per cent and female enrolment went up by 36 per cent.


Income Generation/ Special Education

The CDAP/UNOPS Employment Support Section has established two vocational training courses in tailoring for disabled people in Taloqan. These courses will enable about thirty disabled women and men to make a living by running small tailoring shops within their own villages.

A special education training course has been arranged by CDAP/UNOPS in Takhar for female field workers. Completion of this course will enable them to train disabled women, boys, and girls in sign language and Braille, which is a prerequisite for integration of deaf and blind children into mainstream schools. The field workers carry out home visits to the disabled, and refer special cases, which are beyond their capacity, to other services available in the region.



FAO irrigated thirty jeribs of improved wheat on the Improved Seed Enterprise (ISE) foundation seed farm in western Afghanistan and weeded fifty jeribs of wheat in Rawzabagh foundation seed farm in Heart Province.

Due to lack of an in-country institution, which would be capable of ensuring the selection and maintenance of pure seed varieties, most farmers reproduce their own seed from previous stocks. Their lack of technical knowledge results in poor quality seed, nor do they know how to prevent cross-pollination and the reproduction of seed-borne diseases. Consequently, quality, yields, and market value are low. FAO therefore established a regional capacity to produce and maintain stocks of pure foundation seeds in four agro-ecological zones in Afghanistan.


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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