Concern responds after avalanches kill 43 in Afghanistan

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Concern delivers urgent assistance to 30,000 people in Badakhshan, North Eastern Province

Concern Worldwide has launched an emergency response in Badakhshan, Afghanistan after avalanches killed at least 43 people last month– burying an entire village in up to 10 feet of snow. At least 60 more people were injured or trapped in their homes across a number of villages in the north eastern province, and main roads were entirely cut off placing communities at severe risk.

Concern is responding to the immediate needs of close to 30,000 people that were among the worst affected in the province. “People are in need of food, fuel, winter clothing and fodder for their animals. Concern is purchasing essential supplies locally in Kabul and deploying them to the emergency area,” said Concern Regional Director for Asia, Lucia Ennis.

The incident took place in Raghistan, Kohistan, Yawaran and Eshkashim regions of Badakhshan province where an estimated 96 percent of the population live in hard to reach, remote areas. The district suffers from very cold, harsh winters and is prone to natural disasters, including avalanches, landslides, earthquakes, droughts and flooding.

Through "fodder for work" activities, Concern will assist people in 30 villages to clear the roads of snow using donkeys and horses to reach isolated areas, while ensuring the survival of animals by providing access to fodder up until May of this year. Concern will also be implementing cash-for-work activities to target districts, and administering small cash grants in severely isolated areas. As part of the overall response, non-food items including winterised tents, household kits, and warm clothing for women and children will also be distributed.

“As part of our longer term response, we will be providing training to communities on the importance of Disaster Risk Reduction methods, which can help build the resilience of communities to future natural disasters, said Ennis. "In the meantime, we will be prepositioning essential supplies in the event of future crises in the short term."

Afghanistan's harsh winters and mountainous terrain make avalanches an annual hazard. Last year, at least 171 people died in an avalanche at the Salang Pass -- the major highway route through the Hindu Kush mountains linking Kabul with the north of the country.

Concern has been working in Afghanistan since 1998 with programs in livelihoods and water and environmental health with support from various donors and Irish Aid.