UN helping Afghanistan's most vulnerable this winter

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The United Nations has warned that despite the enormous efforts underway to deliver food and aid this winter, the adverse security situation continues to complicate efforts to reach Afghanistan's most vulnerable people.

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"The deteriorating security situation is causing grave concern with agencies and organizations are apprehensive that distribution will not be able to take place in insecure areas," a UN official said.

Speaking at a press conference at UNAMA's Kabul office, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) representative in Afghanistan, Wael Haj-Ibrahim also "blamed corruption and the pilfering of aid for the gaps in service delivery."

OCHA which re-established in January, coordinates and promotes independent humanitarian assistance based on the fundamental principles of humanity and neutrality for the most vulnerable people of Afghanistan.

Statistics reveal that around 400,000 Afghans are seriously affected by natural disasters such as droughts, floods and extreme weather conditions each year. This winter, too, UN agencies such as UNICEF, UNHCR, and IOM have procured non-food items, while the World Food Programme (WFP) continues with its regular winter programming that includes feeding 863,000 Afghans, with 91 per cent of the target already met.

"There has been 100 per cent delivery in Faizabad, while 66 per cent of the planned distribution has taken place in Herat," said Mr Wael, attributing to insecurity as one of the difficulties being faced.

Aid gaps are also existing in every region according to government figures, including in the north-east and south, where, Mr Wael says, a lack of humanitarian presence in remote areas along with a lack of government capacity and resources will add to reaching populations there.

Meantime, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that swine flu cases will increase this winter. However, the organization has taken the first delivery of 550,000 Tamiful vaccines this month, with an additional 1.8 million to arrive by April 2010.

This year OCHA estimated the need of about US$ 871 million in total assistance required for its efforts in Afghanistan.

By Aditya Mehta, UNAMA