Central Asia Region Complex Emergency Situation Report #34 (FY2002)

Situation Report
Originally published



Note: this Situation Report updates previous Central Asia Task Force Situation Reports and Fact Sheets. New information is italicized.


Two decades of war in Afghanistan, including a decade-long Soviet occupation and ensuing civil strife, left Afghanistan impoverished and mired in an extended humanitarian crisis. Government infrastructure, including the ability to deliver the most basic health, education, and other social services, collapsed. Severe restrictions by the Taliban, including a restriction on women working outside the home, added to the impact of poverty, particularly on the many households lacking able-bodied adult men. A devastating regional drought compounded the crisis, drying up wells, parching agricultural land, killing off livestock, collapsing rural economies, and eventually exhausting the coping mechanisms of many ordinary Afghans, forcing them to leave their homes in search of food and water.

International relief agencies, with support from the United States (U.S.), have long been active in providing humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, even during the restrictive years of the Taliban. On October 7, 2001, a Coalition-led military campaign against al-Qaeda and Taliban forces began, and by December 2001, the Taliban had collapsed. The new Afghan Interim Authority (AIA) was sworn in on December 22, 2001, increasing humanitarian access to the country and beginning the process of reconstruction. Tens of thousands of refugee and internally displaced families have started to return to their homes to assist in the rebuilding. The U.S. Agency for International Development's Disaster Assistance Response Team (USAID/DART), which began its emergency coordination work in response to the regional drought in June 2001, continues to assess the humanitarian needs of vulnerable Afghans, and to monitor the relief programs of its implementing partners.

Afghanistan: Numbers at a Glance

Total population (CIA Factbook):26,813,057

Refugees Since January 1, 2002 (UNHCR)

Pakistan: 60,000
Iran: unknown

Old Caseload Refugees (UNHCR)

Pakistan: 2,000,000
Iran: 1,500,000

Refugee Returns Since January 1, 2002 (UNHCR)

Pakistan (voluntary assisted since March 1): 654,000
Pakistan (spontaneous): 180,000
Iran (voluntary assisted since April 9): 59,000
Iran (spontaneous): 61,000
Tajikistan: Pyandj River (voluntary assisted): 8,952
Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan: 1,000

Internally Displaced (UNDP/OCHA)

Total as of February 20, 2002: 920,000
- north and northeast: 500,000
- south and west: 420,000

Internally Displaced Returns Since January 1, 2002 (IOM)

To Kabul (spontaneous) : 64,750
To northeast (spontaneous): 117,000
To Shomali Plain
- from Panjshir Valley (voluntary assisted): 8,000
- from Kabul (voluntary assisted): 14,625
To Bamiyan (voluntary assisted): 1,300
From Herat (voluntary assisted): 55,000
From Mazar-e-Sharif (voluntary assisted): 48,000
From Bamiyan (voluntary assisted): 8,200
From Jalalabad (voluntary assisted): 28,538
From Spin Boldak (voluntary assisted): 1,255

FY 2001/2002 U.S. Government (USG) Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan*: $582,487,072
FY 2001/2002 USG Humanitarian Assistance to Tajikistan: $88,208,180

Current Situation

Overview. Progress continued in the first and second phases of preparation for the Loya Jirga. The U.N. Security Council approved a six-month extension for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul. In Khost, British marines were attacked and a potential attack on an airfield used by Coalition forces was thwarted. A new survey shows low levels of crop damage by locusts in Samangan Province. Localized flooding was reported in Bamiyan Province. Breaks in the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) food pipeline led to suspension of some programs. The pace of Afghan refugees returns remained steady, with more than 725,000 returns since March 1. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported a severe outbreak of leishmaniasis in Kabul.

Political/Military. The first phase of the Loya Jirga process continued this week, and there are an estimated 65 districts remaining that need to conduct assemblies (shuras) to select district representatives. Ultimately, each of the county's 381 districts will have held shuras. Sixteen districts have completed second phase elections to select their district's delegation to the Loya Jirga to be held June 10-16 in Kabul. District representatives met in Mazar on May 21 and were expected to meet in Bamiyan on May 23-24. Additional second phase meetings are planned for Jalalabad on May 27-30, in Kunduz on June 1, and are ongoing in Kabul. Eventually, 1,051 Afghans will be chosen to attend the Loya Jirga, with an additional 450 seats reserved for various Afghan institutions and groups. Under the Bonn Agreement, the Loya Jirga will determine a two-year transitional government until elections are held.

Operation Condor in eastern Afghanistan ended on May 22 without finding al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. The Coalition operation was launched on May 16 following an attack on an Australian patrol in the mountains of Paktia Province.

The U.N. Security Council approved a six-month extension for the ISAF in Kabul, but rejected expansion of the ISAF beyond Kabul. The initial six-month mandate of the ISAF ends on June 20. Turkey will assume leadership of the ISAF from Britain next month. The British chief of the ISAF indicated that the security force would concentrate in the coming weeks on preventing violence that could disrupt the Loya Jirga process.

Security. Reports from just north of Jalalabad indicate that the provincial governor deployed 1,000 troops to contain an unruly warlord. The U.N. has suspended all ground movement between Kabul and Jalalabad.

Three attackers in a car fired on 12 British marines near Khost on May 23. The marines were not injured and returned fire, wounding two of the attackers. On May 21, U.S. warplanes bombed 15 to 20 suspected al Qaeda and Taliban fighters as they dug four mortar pits near the airfield at Khost. The airfield is used by Coaltion forces and has been the target of several attempted rocket attacks, none resulting in casualties.

An Afghan who was selected on May 19 to choose delegates for the Loya Jirga, Mohammad Rahim, was shot dead later the same day at his home in the village of Adok, Chaghcharan District, Ghor Province. A U.N. spokesman noted that the motivation for the murder was not yet known.

On May 23, General Abdul Rashid Dostum freed 512 men, captured months ago during fighting with the Taliban, from the Shibergan prison in northern Afghanistan. The prisoners, primarily ethnic Pashtuns from the south, will arrive in Kabul on Friday and return to their homes. The release was urged by Hamid Karzai, and follows Dostum's release of 200 prisoners in early May and 800 earlier this week. Six hundred Afghans and 600 Pakistanis remain in the overcrowded prison under poor living conditions. Dostum's rival, Atta Mohammed, recently released eight ethnic Uzbeks from a jail in Mazar-e-Sharif. Dostum and Mohammed previously clashed in Balkh and Sar-e-Pul provinces, but reached a truce on May 5 and are working to implement a peace agreement.

The AIA maintained its threat to use military force against warlord Padshah Khan if he did not surrender himself to authorities. A Foreign Ministry spokesman indicated that action may be taken against Khan before the Loya Jirga. Khan fired hundreds of rockets on Gardez on April 27 in an attempt to reclaim the governorship after Karzai replaced Khan with Governor Wardak last month.

Locust. Locusts have reached the flying stage in Baghlan and Samangan provinces. In addition to crop areas, mature locusts have emerged from breeding grounds in the hills. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that 5,827 hectares out of 219,187 hectares of planted wheat in Samangan Province had been destroyed by locusts as of May 1, less than three percent of the crop. FAO is continuing its locust campaign for the duration of the wheat harvest (another 30 to 40 days), and aims to keep the damage at existing levels or at five percent or less. FAO believes that the damage estimates will be similar in Baghlan and Kunduz, the other two most affected provinces.

FAO, with USAID/OFDA and British Department for International Development (DFID) support, and in cooperation with the AIA, local authorities, and international organizations, has been coordinating a program of manual and chemical eradication since the early spring. On May 24, the U.N. was scheduled to transport a delayed shipment of 10,000 liters of pesticide to Mazar to support ongoing eradication efforts.

Floods. Localized flooding in Waras District, Bamiyan Province on May 15 killed one person, destroyed seven homes, and affected 25,000 people. Floods also damaged 20 to 25 percent of agricultural land, killed livestock, and damaged or destroyed irrigation canals. Fifteen kilometers of the Waras-Panjab road were impassable due to landslides, cutting off humanitarian aid routes into the town. Aid agencies dispatched 1,000 jerry cans and medical supplies, including a UNICEF medical kit with antibiotics and preventive medicine for 10,000 people.

Food Aid and Logistics. Since September 11, 2001, WFP, with support from USAID, has delivered 462,429 MT of food into Afghanistan, of which 369,527 MT has been distributed throughout the country, assisting some 6.6 million Afghans.

WFP continues to report breaks in their food pipeline due to insufficient supply. WFP anticipates that its deliveries into Afghanistan through July will amount to 171,000 MT, a shortfall of 30,000 MT from the required level of distribution. Due to the shortage, WFP has suspended 12 projects in Kandahar and stopped dispatching food in the central and western areas. WFP has also had to suspend some of its Food For Work and Food For Asset Creation programs.

WFP staff are registering an additional 5,000-5,500 vulnerable households in Kabul, and plan to establish 10-15 new women operated bakeries to serve this population. The bakeries would employ up to 500 women. From January to March 2002, WFP's 21 bakeries in Kabul produced 33,500 loaves of bread daily. WFP's school feeding program, launched on March 30, is providing fortified bread to approximately 17,000 school children in Kabul and Jalalabad. WFP is making preparations to begin school feeding programs in other cities.

WFP and FAO are planning a crop assessment that will be completed before the July harvest. The assessment will provide an overview of the food and agriculture situation, summarize the food production forecast for 2001/2002, and summarize the cereal supply and demand and food aid requirements for 2002/2003.

USAID/OFDA grantee Save the Children implemented a nutritional survey in Belcheragh District, Faryab Province in April. WFP has previously identified Belcheragh as a vulnerable area in terms of food security. Initial results of the survey indicate that the food security situation in Belcheragh appears to have improved, as both acute and chronic malnutrition levels were low. Save the Children is currently conducting a nutritional survey in cooperation with the Provincial Director of the AIA Public Ministry of Health in Kohistanat District, Sar-e-Pul, which had been identified by WFP as inaccessible for food aid distributions from the provincial capital.

A recent nutrition survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UNICEF found surprisingly low levels of acute malnutrition in Badghis Province, which has experienced prolonged drought and sporadic food distribution this spring. However, the survey also found a significant level of chronic malnutrition and some signs of micro-nutrient deficiencies that are likely chronic and seasonal.

IDPs and Refugees. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the AIA, and the NGO community are preparing for the anticipated return this summer of more than 1.2 million Afghan refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP). According to UNHCR, more than 725,000 Afghan refugees have been assisted in returning home in the twelve weeks since UNHCR and the AIA began their voluntary repatriation program in coordination with neighboring governments. IOM reports more than 160,000 IDPs have also been assisted in returning home.

On May 6-7, UNHCR conducted a survey at the Pul-e-Charki Encashment Center in Kabul where 52 percent of refugees indicated Kabul was their final destination. Returnees were attracted to Kabul because of the security and economic opportunity, and due to the drought in their home villages. Of this group, 27 percent indicated that they would return to their own homes, while 15 percent planned to stay with a relative for a short time until they rented their own accommodation.

UNHCR reports that more than 654,000 Afghans have returned from Pakistan since its program began March 1. UNHCR originally planned for 400,000 returnees from Pakistan this year, a number that was exceeded in the first two months of the program. UNHCR has now more than doubled planning figures to 850,000 returns for the year. Ninety percent of the returnees pass through the Takhtabaig voluntary repatriation center near Peshawar, Pakistan. An estimated 40 percent are destined for urban centers in Afghanistan, with roughly three in every four returnees going back to Nangarhar and Kabul provinces.

On May 21, the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan closed as the last refugees returned to their homes. The camp was established in 1980 for Afghan refugees fleeing the Soviet occupation, and was home to more than 100,000 refugees at its peak.

UNHCR has been working to meet requests for repatriation from Afghan refugees in Pakistan who live outside refugee hosting areas or principal crossing points. UNHCR staff traveled to North Waziristan on May 19 to register 175 families with plans to return to central and northern Afghanistan. On May 23, a convoy carrying 4,000 Afghan refugees left Karachi, Pakistan for Afghanistan. Since April, an estimated 52,000 Afghan refugees have repatriated from the Sindh Province in southern Pakistan.

UNHCR has received reports from Afghan refugees in the neighboring cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi who have experienced police harassment, forced eviction, and extortion. Pakistan's Interior Secretary established a special government task force to respond to the reports, and has included UNHCR in its meetings.

According to UNHCR, more than 59,000 Afghans have returned home from Iran since its program began on April 9. The majority of Afghans returning from Iran have crossed at the northern Islam Qala border at Dogharun, and have gone on to areas outside Herat Province, mainly to Kabul and other urban centers. The Milak-Zaranj border crossing in the south, closed due to factional fighting since the voluntary repatriation began, reopened on May 5.

UNHCR reports that approximately 10,000 Afghans have been assisted in returning home from the northern Central Asia states, including Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Last week, UNHCR began voluntary return operations for the 80,000 displaced persons at the Chaman and Spin Boldak sites near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Only a portion of the population is expected to take part in the returns. Drought-affected nomads and farmers, along with ethnic Pashtuns who fled persecution in the north, are not yet willing to leave the border area to return to their homes. UNHCR is surveying alternate camp sites for these IDPs. UNHCR has assisted 866 Afghans in Spin Boldak return to their homes in Kandahar Province. In recent weeks, more that 1,500 refugees left the Chaman site just inside Pakistan for Afghanistan. UNHCR is advising the displaced population at both border sites about return options, conditions, and assistance. IDPs returning from Spin Boldak receive a transport allowance, a UNHCR family kit, and three months of food aid from WFP.

IOM announced that it would have to suspend all of its Internal Transport Network operations for IDPs in Afghanistan on May 27 if it does not receive pledges of $10 million. Most of IOM's IDP operations were suspended two weeks ago due to a funding shortage.

Since late February, IOM has transported thousands of IDPs to their home provinces in cooperation with UNHCR. IOM-assisted returns have included 1,300 IDPs from Kabul to Bamiyan Province; 55,000 IDPs from Herat IDP camps to Herat and Badghis provinces; 48,000 IDPs in Mazar-e-Sharif to several provinces in northern Afghanistan; 8,200 IDPS from Bamiyan Province to the Shaigan Valley, Baghlan Province; and 28,538 IDPs from the Hesar Shahi camp near Jalalabad to their villages in Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar, and Kabul provinces.

Health. A recent evaluation headed by WHO found that an outbreak of leishmaniasis, a non-lethal skin disfiguring disease, was particularly severe in Kabul with an estimated 200,000 cases. WHO has provided impregnated mosquito bednets to protect against transmission of the disease by sandflies, in addition to drugs to treat 35,000 cases. WHO is developing an emergency action plan to control the situation in Kabul by the end of 2003.

USG Humanitarian Assistance

Background. On October 4, 2001, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Christina B. Rocca redeclared a complex humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan for FY 2002. To date, FY 2001 and FY 2002 USG humanitarian assistance for Afghans has been provided by USAID/OFDA, Food for Peace (USAID/FFP), Democracy & Governance (USAID/DG), Office of Transition Initiatives (USAID/OTI), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (State/PRM), Department of State's Humanitarian Demining Program (State/HDP), the Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (State/INL), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The assistance is for displaced persons inside Afghanistan and Afghan refugees in neighboring countries.

On March 26, 2002, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Robert P. Finn issued a disaster declaration due to the earthquake in Baghlan Province. USAID/OFDA responded by providing an additional $25,000 in Disaster Assistance Authority to ACTED, one of many USAID-funded grantees that are providing humanitarian assistance to the affected population.

In Tajikistan, on October 10, 2001, U.S. Chargé d'Affaires James A. Boughner declared a disaster due to drought, and requested funds for a seed and fertilizer distribution program. USAID/OFDA responded by providing $998,180 through the U.S. Embassy to Cooperative for American Relief Everywhere (CARE) for the purchase and distribution of winter wheat seeds and fertilizer.

USAID/OFDA Assistance

Personnel. USAID/OFDA currently has one Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) based in Kabul to assess humanitarian activities and logistical capacity in the region. USAID/DART members coordinate with the humanitarian relief community and assess the humanitarian situation.

(pdf* format)

Bernd McConnell
Director,Central Asia Task Force

USAID/OFDA bulletins can be obtained from the USAID web site at