UN agencies rush food, other aid to flood-devastated region of Afghanistan

United Nations agencies are rushing emergency food and other aid to nearly 9,000 people in Afghanistan's north-eastern province of Badakshan after a hailstorm and heavy flooding devastated the area, killing some 30 people, injuring 40 others and destroying over 1,000 homes.

"Badakshan is one of the most remote and poverty stricken provinces in Afghanistan. The floods will have a devastating effect on people who already live with a great deal of food insecurity," UN World Food Programme (WFP) country representative Charles Vincent said in the Afghan capital, Kabul, today.

Also today, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is sending 1,100 family kits, including utensils, blankets, soap and other non-food items from its warehouses in Kabul and the northern city of Mazar, while the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have established emergency care centres in Faizabad, one of the areas most devastated by Thursday's storm, as a contingency measure.

WFP will distribute some 88 metric tons of food including wheat, oil, salt and pulses - enough for 9,000 people for one month. With an estimated 92 kilometres of road also destroyed, a WFP bulldozer is working to clear and rebuild roads washed away by heavy mud. Agency trucks are also collecting non-food items such as blankets, tarpaulins and tents from Faizabad airport and delivering them to flood-affected families.

"The hard work in Badakshan has only just begun," Mr. Vincent said. "Once the initial emergency aid has been delivered, WFP and partners will also be working hard to rehabilitate lost infrastructure. There are roads, canals and bridges to be rebuilt."

In the Darwaz district, one of the most remote areas in Afghanistan, WFP is taking part in a complicated operation with food distribution partner FOCUS to bring 20 tons of food to 400 families. The food will have to go via Iskashem in Tajikstan, as roads are blocked on the Afghan side of the border by prolonged snow.

The aid follows a joint assessment of affected areas carried out over the weekend by three teams, two of which travelled by helicopter throughout the province. Eight districts have been identified as severely affected by the floods. The teams reported widespread destruction across 65 villages. Thousands of livestock died, nearly 28,000 trees were wrecked and over 3,290 jirib (658 hectares) of land laid waste by the storm.

In an initial response before the assessment, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) on Friday sent non-food items such as tents and blankets to Faizabad and on Saturday the Government flew in an additional 1,000 tents and 4,000 blankets.