United Nations agencies are stepping up relief efforts for flood victims across Afghanistan, with assistance already on its way to nearly 4,000 families, or some 20,000 people.
“As we speak there is a huge effort taking place by UN agencies, including UNICEF (UN Children’s Fund), the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) with the Government and provincial authorities to ensure that essential humanitarian relief supplies reach the affected populations,” UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) spokesman Aleem Siddique told a news briefing in Kabul, the capital.
Ahead of this season’s flooding, the WFP has already pre-positioned 350,000 tons of mixed foods in five different locations for distribution to the most vulnerable families. UNICEF trucks are carrying essential food, medicine, warm clothing for children and shelter material.
In another UN-backed initiative, tens of thousands of vaccinators are fanning out across the mountainous country to deliver the life-saving oral polio vaccine to children in every region as part of a four-stage immunization campaign targeting 7.3 million children. The huge effort is being undertaken by the Afghan government, UNICEF and the UN World Health Organization (WHO).
“In a country with limited health care infrastructure, no clinics or doctor's offices, these immunization campaigns are essential to UNICEF’s work to save children’s lives and preventing lifelong disability,” UNICEF Canada President Nigel Fisher said. The campaign is being funded by a $1.5-million donation from the Canadian Government.
In yet further efforts to help the strife-torn country, UNICEF and the Ministry of Education are preparing to train 4,000 teachers on new teaching methods. The agency has set itself a target of enrolling 400,000 more girls in basic education, providing learning materials to 5.4 million youngsters up to grade 9, and supplying teaching materials for over 100,000 teachers.
The Ministry of Culture and Youth Affairs has awarded UNICEF the title of top UN agency for its work in the field of education in the Eastern region of Afghanistan by providing assistance with school construction, teacher training, school and child protection, provisions for teaching and learning materials along with support for community-based schools.
For its part, the UN refugee agency reported that over 18,000 Afghans returned home from Pakistan since its voluntary repatriation operations resumed at the beginning of March after a break for the harsh winter months.
This is the sixth year of UNHCR-facilitated returns to Afghanistan, the largest such operation in the agency’s history, which has already seen over 2.89 million Afghans return from Pakistan where they had fled a decade of Soviet occupation followed by nearly two decades of civil war and factional fighting.
Pakistan still hosts one of the largest groups of refugees in the world; there are 1 million Afghans living in camps and more than 1.4 million living in urban areas. Since 2002 over 1.5 million Afghans have also returned home from Iran, 850,000 with UNHCR help. More than 1 million others are still estimated to be living there.