BUREAU FOR DEMOCRACY, CONFLICT, AND HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE (DCHA)
OFFICE OF U.S. FOREIGN DISASTER ASSISTANCE (OFDA)
CENTRAL ASIA TASK FORCE
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. Hundreds 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) began its emergency coordination work in response to the regional drought in June 2001, and a USAID/OFDA Program Office in Kabul 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)
Old Caseload Refugees (UNHCR)
Refugee Returns Since January 1, 2002 (UNHCR)
Pakistan (voluntary assisted since March
Pakistan (spontaneous): 180,000
Iran (voluntary assisted since April 9): 65,700
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): 15,538
From Spin Boldak (voluntary assisted): 1,255
FY 2001/2002 U.S. Government (USG)
Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan*: $605,343,303
FY 2001/2002 USG Humanitarian Assistance to Tajikistan: $88,208,180
Overview. Final selections have been made for delegates to the Loya Jirga, which starts June 10. Families of United Nations (U.N.) and NGO staff left Pakistan this week due to mounting tension with India, which prompted contingency planning by humanitarian organizations. A number of security incidents affected relief operations in the region. Relief agencies responded to flooding in Kapisa Province. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has tripled estimates for returnees from Pakistan, and the rate of returns remained high. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) will resume transport programs for internally displaced persons (IDPs). The World Health Organization (WHO) is investigating five suspected cases of Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever near the Afghan border.
Political/Military. Delegates arrived this week in Kabul for the Loya Jirga, a process determining a two-year transitional government that is scheduled for June 10-16. In preparation for the Loya Jirga, each of the county's 381 districts held shuras to select district representatives. These representatives participated in second phase selections for the district's delegation to the Loya Jirga. As of June 6, the second phase had been completed in all regions except a few districts in Kabul. Overall, more than 1,500 Afghans were chosen to attend the Loya Jirga, with an additional 450 seats reserved for various Afghan institutions and groups.
On June 6, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights signed a decree establishing the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission. Eleven Afghan human rights activists and specialists will serve on the commission.
The ongoing tension between India and Pakistan in Kashmir led to the withdrawal of families of U.N. and NGO staff from Pakistan. Some NGOs report that they are seeking alternatives to suppliers, transport, and staff travel through Pakistan as a precaution.
Security. Recent security incidents affected U.N. staff and relief operations. On June 2, armed men robbed a UNHCR vehicle en route to Ghazni. No one was injured in the incident, which occurred in the same location on the road between Kabul and Ghazni as a shooting last week at a UNHCR vehicle. Factional fighting in Zaranj, Nimruz Province came within 500 meters of a UNHCR field office, and one stray bullet hit the building but caused no injuries. The fighting resulted in the closure of the Milak-Zaranj border crossing in the south for Afghan returnees from Iran.
UNHCR reported that Pakistani authorities deported 130 Afghans from Pakistan on May 30, most of whom were reportedly detained in Peshawar or en route to the Takhtabaig repatriation center near Peshawar. UNHCR has received a growing number of complaints of harassment from Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
Locust. Locusts have reached the flying stage in Baghlan and Samangan provinces. In addition to crop areas, more flying locusts than originally anticipated have emerged from mountainous areas, where the drought forced adult locusts to locate last year. 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. Since that time, Samangan Province experienced a ten-day pesticide shortage due to transport problems, and Baghlan Province experienced a similar shortage. Rain-fed areas, where locusts breed, have experienced damage, the extent of which has not yet been assessed. Further survey data will be available in late June.
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.
Floods. Flooding in Kapisa Province submerged eight hectares of wheat fields and compelled 12 families to leave their homes. Another 50 families in Sayad village faced potential evacuation, threatened by rising rivers due to increased snow melting. ACTED and the Afghan Red Crescent Society distributed non-food items to affected families.
Food Aid and Logistics. Since September 11, 2001, WFP, with support from USAID, has delivered 493,970 MT of food into Afghanistan, of which 382,208 MT has been distributed throughout the country, assisting some 6.6 million Afghans.
WFP continues to experience constraints in their food pipeline due to insufficient supply. WFP has managed to significantly reduce the impact of pipeline lags on key programs, and has reallocated existing stocks and incoming commodities through July to reflect changing requirements in each of the regions. WFP has also carefully prioritized allocation of stocks to drought-affected, displaced and returning populations. Expansion of Food For Work, Food For Education, and urban vulnerable programs will be delayed until the pipeline improves.
In early June, WFP will start a food distribution for 92,000 civil servants in Kabul, and 100,000 civil servants outside Kabul. The food rations are equivalent to half of the cash salaries they receive from the U.N. Development Program (UNDP). In late March, WFP completed a two-month food ration distribution to 80,000 civil servants in Kabul.
WFP and FAO have been preparing for a crop and food supply assessment that will be completed before the July harvest. More than 60 national staff surveyors began fieldwork in early May, and a team of international experts will conduct limited field surveys and analyze field team findings in mid-June. 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. Preparations for the annual Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) are also underway.
IDPs and Refugees. More than 900,000 Afghan refugees have been assisted in returning home since UNHCR and the AIA began their voluntary repatriation program on March 1 in coordination with neighboring governments. The majority of returnees are coming from Pakistan, with the higher than expected number of returnees exceeding initial yearly planning figures of 400,000 for Pakistan in the first two months of the program. UNHCR has since had to triple its planning figures for Pakistan, but is maintaining its original estimate of 400,000 returns from Iran. The scale of returns has strained UNHCR's funding sources, which could result in reduced assistance to returnees if new contributions are not made to the agency.
For the third week in a row, 100,000 Afghans returned in a single week. The rate of returns is expected to rise still higher, particularly from Pakistan. Some Afghan community leaders in Pakistan have reportedly encouraged Afghan refugees to return now, fearing the possible repercussions of the current military standoff between India and Pakistan. A number of refugees have said they are waiting on the outcome of the Loya Jirga before deciding to return. A positive outcome could result in a large influx from Pakistan, particularly from older refugee villages.
Overall, more than 796,339 Afghans have voluntarily returned from Pakistan, with ninety percent of the returnees passing 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.
According to UNHCR, more than 65,700 Afghans have returned home from Iran since its program began on April 9. The Milak-Zaranj border crossing for returnees in the south has temporarily closed this week due to factional fighting in the city of Zaranj in Nimruz Province, the second closure since April 9. Afghans are continuing to cross from Iran at the northern Islam Qala border at Dogharun, and have gone on to areas outside Herat Province, mainly to Kabul and other urban centers.
UNHCR reports that approximately 10,000 Afghans have been assisted in returning home from the northern Central Asia states, including Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. On June 5, UNHCR helped 33 Afghan refugees return from Kyrgyzstan in the first organized repatriation of Afghans from a non-bordering country. More than 100 of the 800 official Afghan refugees in Kyrgyzstan have expressed an interest in returning to Afghanistan.
UNHCR and local authorities are finalizing plans for 10 settlements in Kandahar province as longer-term sites for up to 50,000 IDPs currently sheltering in Spin Boldak and Chaman along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Relocation to the sites, which will shelter no more than 5,000 people each, may begin in late June for those IDPs unwilling to return to their homes because of drought or ethnic persecution. Since May 16, UNHCR has assisted 2,402 IDPs from Spin Boldak wishing to return to their home areas. UNHCR is advising the displaced population at both border sites about return options, conditions, and assistance.
IOM plans to resume the transfer of IDPs in the Western, Northern, and Central regions. IOM had announced the suspension of IDP transport programs on May 31 due to funding problems. UNHCR will take over the transit support for refugees returning from Iran via the Islam Qala crossing, a program originally run by IOM.
Between mid-January and the end of May, IOM assisted more than 160,000 IDPs through its Internal Transport Network. IOM has transported IDPs to their home provinces, including 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 15,538 IDPs from the Hesar Shahi camp near Jalalabad to their villages in Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar, and Kabul provinces.
Health. Last week, UNICEF, the Ministry of Public Health, and WHO launched the second of four rounds of a national polio immunization campaign. In this most recent round, immunization coverage rates were eight percent higher in Kabul city and the surrounding provinces of Wardak, Logar, Parwan, and Kapisa due to ongoing returnee arrivals. More than one million children under age five were immunized in these areas. Polio immunizations continue daily at the Pul-I-Charki encashment center, where 26,939 children were immunized in May.
UNICEF is conducting additional measles vaccinations in Faryab and Dai Kundi, where sporadic measles case have been reported. In districts where vaccination coverage is less than 80 percent, UNICEF will revaccinate. USAID/OFDA is supporting the measles vaccination campaign, which has reached more than six million children between the ages of six months and 12 years since early 2002.
WHO is investigating the death of three Afghans due to a suspected outbreak of Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever in Iran near the Afghan border. The victims were treated in an Iranian hospital, where they were isolated to avoid exposing others. The cases occurred more than a week ago, and a spokesperson for WHO said that two other people are being treated for hemorrhagic fever-like symptoms.
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.
Personnel. On June 7, the USAID/OFDA Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) based in Kabul was deactivated to become a USAID/OFDA Program Office. The USAID/DART had been in the region since June 2001. USAID/OFDA staff in Kabul will continue to coordinate with the humanitarian relief community, assess the humanitarian situation, and monitor USAID/OFDA programs.
OTHER USG ASSISTANCE
New Actions. On June 4, USAID/OFDA provided $725,831 to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) for its program in Alborz, Chemtal District, Balkh Province to improve health, reduce morbidity, mortality and suffering, and improve food security for approximately 54,000 returning IDPs and residents.
USAID/OFDA bulletins can be obtained from the USAID web site at http://www.usaid.gov/hum=5Fresponse/ofda/situation.html