United Nations gives $11 million for Afghanistan droughts

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has allocated $11 million from the rapid response component of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for emergency relief for drought-stricken Afghanistan.

“Drought devastates communities in many ways and leads to spiraling impoverishment” said Margareta Ahlstrom, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator. “Households consume their harvests much sooner than usual, which leads to increased malnutrition; seeds are eaten before the next year’s planting season; animals and household goods are sold; and migration to cities takes place.”

The programmers to be funded with CERF funds include World Food Programmed (WFP) feeding programmer, a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) therapeutic feeding programmer for severely malnourished children, a UNICEF project to provide water in drought-affected areas, and a World Health Organization programmer to support the delivery of health services.

“We are concerned that the drought appeal for Afghanistan may not attract sufficient attention from the international aid community and secure its much needed support in time,” said the acting Humanitarian Coordinator and Representative of UNICEF,  Mr.Bernt Aasen. “The CERF grant provides urgently required funds for immediate action on core humanitarian activities in the drought-stricken areas before the onset of winter and until additional funding becomes available. However, the CERF is just a beginning, and we count on the international community for their voluntary assistance.”

The WFP will use the $10 million in CERF funds in support of its programmer to provide food for 1.7 million people in 13 of the worst drought-hit provinces of Afghanistan. The CERF grant component will be used to fill a three-month gap before the bulk of recent contributions become available in country for distribution. The $200,000 allocated to UNICEF’s therapeutic feeding programmer will be used for the benefit of approximately 2,000 severely malnourished children in the three provinces of Sari Pull, Namangan and Ghor, where there are fewer no 24-hour services for acute malnutrition. With the $500,000 dedicated to provision of water to drought-affected areas, UNICEF will provide clean drinking water to the most affected communities in Namangan and Sari Pull in order to reduce vulnerability and thus discourage internal displacement. Meanwhile, with the nearly $400,000 provided for its emergency health work, WHO will work to avoid preventable deaths and morbidity amongst the drought-affected population.

An estimated 2.5 million people living in mostly rain-fed areas of Afghanistan are facing an imminent food crisis due to inadequate rainfall in the months of April and May. This estimate is in addition to the 6.5 million people who are seasonally or chronically food insecure. The total shortfall is estimated by the Ministry of Agriculture, assisted by the Food and Agriculture organization (FAO), at 1.2 million metric tons (MT) of cereals.

The Government of Afghanistan and the United Nations launched a six-month appeal on 25 July 2006 for nearly $76.4 million to support the urgent needs of those affected by drought in Afghanistan. Projects resourced from CERF funds are expected to be implemented within three-month period, in keeping with the rules and regulations governing the use of the Fund.