The harsh winter weather conditions have caused fatalities, hardship and major access problems in Afghanistan, particularly in the Western and Central Highlands regions. At the moment temperatures are increasing and snow is melting.
Though roads from Herat to all provincial capitals have been opened, villages in remote areas are still inaccessible. Due to lack of accessibility, exact number of fatalities and losses are very difficult to obtain. As of 13 February, 882 fatalities and the loss of over 134,000 livestock were confirmed.
Led by the Government, different partners, including the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and other UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, provincial reconstruction teams and ISAF crisis teams have been working together in order to prioritize humanitarian assistance to the needy communities.
Humanitarian assistance delivered to the Western region so far includes the following:
- The World Food Programme (WFP) has delivered food assistance amounting to 553 metric tonnes (tonnes) to 12,800 winter-affected families in the Western region.
- The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have delivered food and non-food items, including over 15,000 sweaters, as well as blankets, tarpaulin, plastic sheets, and plastic mats to Herat province and to Farah province. 2,500 internally displaced persons (IDP) families living in Shaidei and Maslakh camps near Herat have received food and non-food items from WFP, UNHCR, UNICEF and IOM.
- The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has contributed 20 tonnes concentrate animal feed for winter affected farmers of Herat province, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture.
Central Highlands region
Several key roads to and within the region have been blocked for more than one month and a half. Though some roads have now opened and snow clearance is on-going, accessibility remains a great problem, particularly in Dai Kundi, but also in the southern part of Bamyan.
Reports have been received from districts around the region on deaths, especially from avalanches, extreme temperatures, pneumonia and acute respiratory infections, as well as losses of houses and livestock. Due to lack of access, it has not been possible to verify the exact number of casualties and losses. So far, an estimated 76 people have lost their lives.
UNHCR and UNICEF have donated non-food items to Bamyan and also to Dai Kundi (via UNAMA helicopter). However, large quantities of relief goods remain in Kabul. UNAMA is currently coordinating with the Afghan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) and other partners to use Ministry of Defence helicopters in the coming week to transport relief to emergency cases in Ashtarlai, Sangtakht, Kijran, Nili and Miramor (Palas area) districts as these areas remain blocked.
FAO is providing 60 tonnes concentrate feed to the worst affected farmers in Bamyan province.
Over the coming weeks, the isolated districts of Dai Kundi as well as parts of Yakawlang, Panjab and Waras (Bamyan) will be in particular need of assistance. Lack of access and the resulting difficulties in data collection in Dai Kundi remains a major challenge. Given the exceptionally high rate of snowfall this winter, there is an immediate need to plan for spring flood response.
Selected activities in other regions
- WFP has so far delivered food assistance amounting to 2,090 tonnes in total across the country, assisting 31,280 winter-affected families. A WFP rapid assessment is on-going to assess the situation of winter-affected families in different regions, and, as per preliminary data, WFP plans to assist a further 6,650 families in Kandahar, 240 families in Kabul and 1,100 families in Hilmand provinces over the coming weeks.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) has distributed emergency health supplies to the regions before the start of the winter, including pneumonia kits and trauma kits, which are used for treating injuries including frostbite. In addition, WHO has started distributing further emergency health supplies to strongly winter-affected provinces on the request of the Ministry of Public Health.
- UNHCR is distributing emergency supplies to over 200,000 returnees, internally displaced and other vulnerable people. UNHCR plans to assist a total of 37,460 Afghan families – numbering more than 200,000 people – with relief items such as tents, blankets, plastic sheets, sleeping mats, lanterns, jerry cans, kitchen sets and soap from the agency’s stockpiles throughout the country. UNHCR’s aim is to prevent the most vulnerable families from being forced to leave their homes.
- Following a recent request from Zabul Provincial Disaster Management Committee, UN agencies (WFP, UNHCR, UNICEF and IOM) have released food and non-food items for distribution among 2,600 cold weather-affected families in all districts of Zabul. The distribution will be done in coordination with Zabul community elders.
- UNHCR has distributed non-food items to 780 vulnerable women in Kandahar as part of their winterization programme. In the South-eastern region, 1,500 winterization packages, including blankets, plastic sheets, sleeping mats and hurricane lanterns were distributed to some 10,000 Afghans living in Paktya and Khost. Similar distributions are underway in Mazar-e-Sharif and Jalalabad.
- UNICEF has dispatched non-food items to Kunar, to be distributed among Nuristani IDP families who are now settled in Nary District, Kunar.
- In Takhar, the Department of Relief and Reconstruction, UNHCR, UNAMA and the Afghan Red Crescent Society provided non-food items to vulnerable households and made available to local authorities an additional stock of non-food items, including clothes, blankets and stoves, which will be used for flood response.
On 15 February, a grant of USD 8 million was approved from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for projects to mitigate the consequences of rising food prices in Afghanistan.
As temperatures rise, flooding is expected over the next few weeks in different regions of Afghanistan, and different partners, including the government, UNAMA and other UN agencies, NGOs, provincial reconstruction teams and ISAF crisis teams are working to put in place plans to deal with the impact of the flooding.