United Nations provides winter assistance for Afghanistan's most vulnerable

5 Jan 2010

United Nations provides winter assistance for Afghanistan's most vulnerable

KABUL - As temperatures drop around the country, United Nations agencies, their partners, and the Afghan Government, are working together to provide relief supplies to help some 200,000 vulnerable people cope with the harsh winter country-wide, including eastern provinces.

In addition to non-food assistance and heating materials, in certain areas in some provinces, more than 12,000 vulnerable families (72,000 individuals) will receive a cash voucher worth US$ 30 to buy heating materials or other items of their choice from identified retailers.

In December, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Jalalabad started distribution of winter assistance for vulnerable returnees and Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs) in eastern provinces.

According to UNHCR’s Jalalabad Office, about 4,100 returnees and displaced families will receive help this winter – with priority being given to those vulnerable returnees in Nangarhar, Laghman and Kunar provinces, and the returnee families in various returnee settlements established in 2005 and 2008.

The items being distributed include blankets, plastic sheets, gas cylinders with gas, items of warm clothing including socks, hats, Patoos, and Barzo.

Esaq Sherzai, Assistant Field Officer for UNHCR in Jalalabad, said that the assessment and beneficiary selection in some returnee concentrated areas and IDPs took place last year to identify the most vulnerable and eligible people, while in some areas, the beneficiary selection is still going on.

“This year, our winterization package is much better than last year’s, because the number of items for each family has been increased. For instance, the winterization package includes warm clothes, shawls and gas cylinders. Also, the number of blankets given to a family has been increased from three to six,” added Mr Sherzai.

Said Abas, 40, who returned to Kunar in 2005 from Pakistan, said: “We really want to thank the United Nations for providing us with necessary assistance on time.”

“But we would like to ask the United Nations agencies to increase the number of beneficiaries because there are still some eligible people in our province who did not receive assistance,” added Mr Abas.

In addition to UNHCR assistance, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have also provided special assistance for winter.

WFP has completed winter pre-positioning programme in eastern provinces, for the areas where roads could be blocked during winter due to heavy snow. A total of 5,064 metric tons (MT) of wheat has been stocked in the stores, including 2,018 in Nangarhar MT, 374 MT in Laghman, and 1,028 MT in Kunar.

Meanwhile, WHO has distributed 34 cartons of pneumonia kits, 36 cartons of emergency health kits, 870 bags of Ringer Serum, 23 cartons of diarrhoea kits, 14 cartons of essential medicines and 55 cartons of medicines for tuberculosis to the hospitals of eastern provinces, including Nuristan province.

By Shafiqullah Waak, UNAMA