As drought and floods strike different Afghan regions, UN agencies rush to help

15 August 2006

The United Nations humanitarian arm has stepped in to assist Afghanistan, where the population is suffering on two fronts – drought is devastating large swathes of the country and recent floods have caused damage to two provinces.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is giving $11 million in emergency drought relief, according to a statement issued yesterday in New York, as part of a programme to provide food, water and health services to those in need.

An estimated 2.5 million Afghans face an imminent food crisis because of inadequate rainfall during April and May, OCHA said, swelling the ranks of roughly 6.5 million people considered to be at seasonal or chronic risk of food insecurity because of the harsh conditions.

Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Margareta Wahlström said “drought devastates communities in many ways and leads to spiralling impoverishment. 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.”

Nearly all of the money from OCHA will go to a World Food Programme (WFP) operation to bring food to 1.7 million people across 13 provinces, while some funds will go to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to help them with their work.

Meanwhile, recent floods have affected more than 5,500 families in Ghazni and Paktya provinces in Afghanistan’s east, a spokeswoman for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) told reporters at a briefing in Kabul.

UNICEF and WFP are distributing medical kits, food and other items such as blankets and cooking utensils, and have announced they will hand out more aid once a full assessment of the needs in the two provinces has been made.

 

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