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Afghanistan: UN completes relocation of international staff

Afghanistan: UN completes relocation of international staff

The United Nations today completed the temporary relocation of 75 international staff from Afghanistan, according to a UN spokesman in New York.

"There are no international UN staff remaining in Afghanistan, but hundreds of national (Afghan) staff remain in the country to provide essential, life-saving assistance to the Afghan people," Fred Eckhard told the press at UN Headquarters.

Mud shelters in Maslakh camp

In a related development, the World Health Organization (WHO) today said the withdrawal of the international staff has hindered relief efforts in the country, where aid workers are racing to build 6,000 mud brick shelters and provide water, sanitation and health services to the high numbers of internally displaced arriving at Maslakh camp outside Herat. "[The workers] have less than eight weeks before winter takes serious hold, bringing snow and freezing winds to rake the valley," WHO said in a statement issued in Herat.

The slow arrival of funds and a continuous stream of new arrivals over the summer - over 8,500 during August alone - has meant that those providing shelter, water and sanitation and health services have been struggling to catch up, the agency said. So far, only two cases of cholera have been confirmed in the camp itself, but the emergency health taskforce coordinated by WHO is on high alert.

Last winter a wave of unusually cold weather saw temperatures fall to -25ºC, killing more than 150 people in one week. Dr. Mojibullah Wahdati, the WHO officer in charge in Herat, fears the combination of cold, malnutrition and overcrowding this year could have a devastating impact.

In other news, the UN Information Centre in Pakistan reported today that a "Six-Plus-Two" Technical Meeting began in Islamabad on Wednesday to coordinate efforts to curb drug trafficking from Afghanistan. Delegates from Afghanistan's six neighbours - China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - plus the Russian Federation and the United States - gathered for the two-day conference, which also included representatives from the UN Drug Control Programme (UNDCP).

The participants are discussing ways of addressing common problems through regional action, including setting up an information-sharing structure and strengthening law enforcement cooperation.