Misery increasing in western Afghanistan, UN relief coordinator warns

6 April 2001

The situation in western Afghanistan continues to deteriorate as summer approaches, with about 1,000 people leaving their homes each day to escape drought, conflict, or both, according to a statement issued today by the Office of the United Nations Coordinator for Afghanistan.

In a statement issued at its headquarters in Islamabad, the Office said that truckloads of families were arriving in the provincial capital of Herat, where six camps for displaced persons now hold 110,000 people.

Sanitary conditions, especially in Maslakh camp, are poor, which makes the World Health Organization (WHO) seriously concerned about the risk of epidemics in the camps with the onset of warmer, more humid weather.

Various governments, including the United States, Norway and Japan, have carried out airlifts of supplies to the area, but need is outstripping supply. Again, too few tents are available for incoming families, and the aid community is coping with the shortfall by assigning two families to each one-family tent, the Coordinator said.

Rural areas in western Afghanistan are also in dire need of help. A recent WFP mission to Badghis - the first UN mission since the murder of seven national staff of the Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan in the summer of 2000 - found that many families did not have enough assets to remain in their homes and had exhausted their food supplies and livestock herds. "As the situation has deteriorated, the numbers of people in need in Badghis have grown so large that traditional coping strategies of sharing and charitable giving are no longer viable," the Office warned.

Given the scale of need, both in the camps and the rural areas of western Afghanistan, the aid community will have to maintain assistance at current or higher levels for at least the next twelve months, the Office said.

Since last year, as many as 800,000 Afghans have left their homes because of conflict and drought. Most are internally displaced inside Afghanistan.

 

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