Merlin assists thousands severely affected by floods in Afghanistan

Merlin, the UK-based charity which specialises in medical relief and health care worldwide, is assisting thousands of vulnerable people affected by floods in Badakshan province, northern Afghanistan.

With ongoing health projects across Badakshan, Merlin was ready to respond swiftly to the crisis and has already started distributing medical supplies to affected communities in four districts of the province.

The floods, which resulted from torrential rains in June, have affected an estimated 65 villages; damaged more than 1,000 houses; washed away roads and bridges; and contaminated or destroyed water springs and canals.

An estimated 200,000 people no longer have access to clean water, so there is a serious threat of outbreaks of water-borne diseases.

Populations in the affected areas have been cut off from the main district centres and have not been able to reach medical facilities. To respond to this serious concern, Merlin will focus on setting up and managing mobile clinics, and ensuring health facilities have adequate medical supplies, jerry cans to collect and store water, and chlorine solutions for water purification.

Merlin teams will also distribute soap, insecticide-treated bed nets, and leaflets with instructions on how to prepare oral rehydration salts to relieve symptoms of diarrhoea.

Merlin will also promote health and hygiene messages through leaflets and posters in public places including markets, shops and mosques, and through media outlets, to raise awareness of how to prevent water and sanitation-related diseases.

Merlin has joined forces with the Ministry of Public Health of Afghanistan to respond to this natural disaster, and plans to build the Ministry's capacity in the province to respond to any future disasters, through enhanced training, better co-ordination and provision of emergency stocks.

Merlin's response aims to benefit an estimated 10,000 people in Fayzabad, Darahim, Argoo and Teshkan.

Nik Rilkoff, Merlin's Country Director in Afghanistan, said: "These communities were already extremely vulnerable and marginalised, living in one of Afghanistan's most remote provinces. Based on our assessments, chronic problems with sanitation already existed, and have been further aggravated by the floods. We need to act quickly because many people may be at risk of acquiring water-borne diseases."

Merlin first started working in Afghanistanin 1994. Current activities include supporting 29 health facilities in TakharProvinceand 20 clinics in Badakshan, as well as training community health workers and midwives to work in rural areas.

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Merlin is the only specialist UKcharity which responds worldwide with vital health care and medical relief for vulnerable people caught up in natural disasters, conflict, disease and health system collapse. Each year, Merlin helps more than 15 million people in up to 20 countries.

In times of acute need, Merlin believes in striving to save lives while leaving a legacy of improved health care.

Merlin's vision is of a world that provides basic health care to all, responds immediately to save lives in times of crisis, and looks beyond emergencies to safeguard long term health.

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