United Nations provides winter assistance for Afghanistan's most vulnerable

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5 January 2010 - As temperatures drop around the country, United Nations agencies, their partners, and the Afghan Government, are working together to provide relief supplies to help some 200,000 vulnerable people cope with the harsh winter country-wide, including eastern provinces.

In December, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Jalalabad started the distribution of winter assistance for vulnerable people and illegible returnees and Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Sawkay district of Kunar province.

According to UNHCR's Fumiko Kashiwa, more than 4,100 returnees and displaced families will receive help this winter - with priority being given to those vulnerable returnees in Nangarhar, Laghman and Kunar provinces, and the returnee families in various returnee settlements established in 2005 and 2008.

"The items being distributed include blankets, plastic sheets, jerry cans, items of warm clothing including shawls, sweaters, shoes, socks, and gas balloons," added Fumiko.

More than 12,000 vulnerable families (72,000 individuals) will receive a cash voucher worth US$ 30 to buy heating materials or other items of their choice from identified retailers.

Esaq Shirzai, Assistant Field Officer for UNHCR in Jalalabad, said the assessment of the returnee concentrated areas and IDPs took place last year to identify the most vulnerable and illegible people.

"This year, our winterization package is much better than last year's, because the number of items for each family has been increased. For instance, the winterization package includes warm clothes, shawls and gas cylinders. Also, the number of blankets given to a family has been increased from three to six," added Mr Shirzai.

Said Abas, 40, who returned to Kunar in 2005 from Pakistan, said: "We really want to thank the United Nations for providing us with necessary assistance on time."

"But we would like to ask the United Nations agencies to increase the number of beneficiaries because there are still many illegible people in our province who did not receive assistance," added Mr Abas.

In addition to UNHCR assistance, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have also provided special assistance for winter.

WFP has completed winter pre-positioning programme in eastern provinces, for the areas where roads could be blocked during winter due to heavy snow. A total of 5,064 metric tons (MT) of wheat has been stocked in the stores, including 2,018 in NangarharMT, 374 MT in Laghman, and 1,028 MT in Kunar.

Meanwhile, WHO has distributed 34 cartons of pneumonia kits, 36 cartons of emergency health kits, 870 bags of Ringer Serum, 23 cartons of diarrhoea kits, 14 cartons of essential medicines and 55 cartons of medicines for tuberculosis to the hospitals of eastern provinces, including Nuristan province.

By Shafiqullah Waak, UNAMA