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Archive for the ‘Natural Disasters’ Category

Drought wreaks havoc in northern Afghanistan

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Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)

July 29, 2008

By Ali Hakim, IFRC communications officer in Mazar-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan

A harsh winter followed by a hot and dry spring season has multiplied the challenges and hardships of villagers in north Afghanistan.

The lack of rain and drinking water are taking a toll on precious livestock, farming lands have gradually dried up and many farmers have lost their harvest. For these reasons, many people in the Alborz district have abandoned their homes and travelled many kilometers to reach Cheshma-e-Shafa, 34 km south-west of Mazar-e-Sharif city.

Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) volunteers and its emergency mobile unit (EMU) were the first to arrive in Cheshma-e-Shafa to meet these internally displaced persons (IDPs) and respond to their needs.

Tents

When the Red Crescent personnel arrived, they found that the area was covered with hundreds of small and large tents. Though the hot weather and dusty winds were making their lives miserable, these IDPs had no choice because nothing remained in their villages.

‘It was 10.30pm when we arrived in Cheshma-e-Shafa,’ said Dr Mohammad Rafi Hakimzade, ARCS regional health officer for the northern region. ‘Yet, as soon as we made our first medical camp, there was a rush for assistance among the IDPs.’

Initially, four camps were established to cater to the massive needs of the IDPs. ‘Malnutrition, acute bloody diarrhoea and sunstroke were among the top widespread health problems,’ he added.

Volunteers

Khoda Rahm Ziyai, a community-based first aid (CBFA) trainer, and volunteer Mohammad Navid Behroz, together with 19 others, worked around the clock.

‘We noticed an obvious lack of awareness about sanitation techniques among the people. Therefore, we decided to send volunteers to the area to teach sanitation methods. We even went to the IDPs’ home villages, in Alborz district, to teach those who had remained,’ added Behroz.

Traders and the local community in Balkh province contributed food and medicines worth more than 122,000 Swiss francs to the affected people. This warm welcome allowed ARCS to speed up its assistance to the vulnerable people.

‘We get our drinking water from remote areas which take something like seven or eight hours to reach. Earlier, we used donkeys as our means of transportation but unfortunately, due to the lack of food and water, they have been lost as well,’ said 55-year-old Abdul Qader, one of the IDPs in Cheshma-e-Shafa.

Wellbeing

‘Here in Cheshma-e-Shafa, the ARCS has taken up the responsibility to protect our health and we feel that their aid is vital to our wellbeing.’

After nearly one month of a challenging operation, the government and other humanitarian agencies have begun to help the IDPs in their original locations, which has made it possible for some to return to their homes. In total, more than 2,126 patients have been treated by the ARCS EMU team, its clinic doctors and volunteers.

In response to the drought, which has spread across many parts of Afghanistan, the Afghan government and United Nations are launching an appeal for more than 413 million Swiss francs. The priorities of the appeal are food security, nutrition, water sanitation and hygiene, health, agriculture and protection. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is involved in the technical committee as an observer, and the ARCS will be one of the implementing agencies.

Written by afghandevnews

July 29, 2008 at 3:11 pm

Afghan Government Urged to Help Drought Hit People in North

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Text of article in English, “Government. urged to help drought hit people in Takhar”, published by state-owned Afghan newspaper The Kabul Times on 26 July

A number of religious scholars, elders and influential figures of Takhar province called on President Hamed Karzai and detailed him about their local problems caused by drought.

Speaking to the meeting at the presidential Palace, Senator Mohammad Kabir and Maulawi Gholam Rabbani and Haji Tora talked about government measures in various fields, asking it to resolve their environmental problems connecting with education, electricity, water and agriculture.

They also asked for construction of a hostel in Takhar University and empowerment of protection walls along the bank of Oxus River. The President expressed pleasure over this meeting and said in order to solve problems in drought-hit areas, the government has taken up some steps. It is ready to set up food reservoirs for this purpose.

Construction of dams and launching vital projects are included in the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS). The Kokcha River is being surveyed by Ministry of Water and Power.

Talking about he Oxus River, the President said, “It is a national state project and we are working to implement this vital project.”

He also directed organs concerned to resolve local problems of Takhar inhabitants.

Originally published by The Kabul Times, Kabul, in English 26 Jul 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring South Asia. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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July 26, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Flash floods displace 1,200 people in Samangan

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KABUL, 26 May 2008 (IRIN) – Flash floods have displaced about 200 families (roughly 1,200 individuals) in the Hazrat Sultan district of Samangan Province in northern Afghanistan. The families urgently need food and shelter, according to the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS).

    “Heavy summer rainfall caused two separate floods in Hazrat Sultan district on Sunday afternoon, which completely destroyed 26 houses, partly damaged more than 100 houses and killed dozens of animals. No human casualties were reported,” Mohammad Zahir Hamidi, provincial head of ARCS, told IRIN from Samangan on 26 May.

    “We will provide the displaced families with tents and kitchen kits. We asked the World Food Programme [WFP] to send food items,” added Hamidi.

    WFP said it will send a team from Kabul to assess the needs of the displaced families on 27 May. “After we get the result of the assessment, we will send food items to the affected families,” Ebadullah Ebadi, a WFP spokesman, told IRIN in Kabul.

    The Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) in Kabul said that 190 families had fled their houses to a hill near their village where some stayed overnight. Others were accommodated by nearby villagers or went back to their partly damaged houses after the flood waters receded.

    Meanwhile, the ARCS office in Samangan has warned of the possibility of more rain in the area. “We need urgent assistance because the displaced families are so vulnerable now and more floods would cause further damage [and suffering],” Hamidi said.

    In February, a national emergency commission – made up of several government bodies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – warned that 21 out of the country’s 34 provinces, including Samangan, were “vulnerable” to spring floods, which usually start in March and last until May.

    A spell of floods and landslides caused by heavy rains killed dozens of people and damaged thousands of homes across Afghanistan in 2007, according to Afghanistan’s National Disasters Management Authority (ANDMA).

Written by afghandevnews

May 26, 2008 at 12:26 pm

Relief supplies reach northern Afghanistan after worst winter in 25 years

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Source: ActionAid / April 3, 2008

Blankets, warm clothing and other essential supplies are being distributed to 42,000 people recovering from extreme winter weather in Jawzjan province in northern Afghanistan.

With the onset of spring, international development agency ActionAid has started a relief and rehabilitation programme in 179 villages in the province with over Euros 370,000 (£290,000) funding from the European Union.

ActionAid assessment teams identified isolated communities in the north of the country that were being left behind in the relief effort and found that war widows and poor families had suffered the most. They discovered 6,000 highly vulnerable families in urgent need of help including 1,212 households headed by women and 372 where the head of the household is disabled.

In addition to general relief the agency is also distributing goats, cattle and poultry to the 1,000 families identified as most at need. During the winter, thousands of head of livestock died in the freezing weather.

ActionAid’s Emergency and Conflict Advisor for Asia, Paras Tamang said that long-term rehabilitation efforts are crucial.

“Now the relief phase is coming to an end it is vital that poor families, who are totally dependent on cattle, goats and poultry for their living, are helped to restock. Without livestock, these families will be destitute.”

But Paras Tamang also warned that there is the danger of flash flooding as snow quickly melts followed by drought in the longer term; so far there has been no seasonal rain to support the just-planted wheat crop.

He said: “ActionAid Afghanistan is preparing communities for the very real possibility of flash floods and drought. This disaster mitigation work will be implemented through cash-for-work programmes – cleaning canals and upgrading flood defenses and irrigation systems. The aim is to have a two fold impact on reducing risks around flooding and drought and also help to increase income in the local economy.”

The European Union is also supporting an ActionAid disaster preparedness project in Shurtepah district, Balkh province, Afghanistan.

Written by afghandevnews

April 5, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Posted in Aid, Natural Disasters

AFGHANISTAN: Drought not floods more likely in 2008 – UNAMA

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KABUL, 17 March 2008 (IRIN) – Despite widespread concern that millions could be vulnerable to seasonal flooding as a result of rapid thawing of unusually heavy winter snow, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has said it does not believe “severe floods” – as witnessed in 2007 – will occur in 2008.

“The technical evidence obtained from remote-sensing – satellite photography – and other sources shows that flooding on the scale of spring 2007 is very unlikely,” Charlie Higgins, head of UNAMA’s humanitarian affairs unit, told the media in Kabul on 17 March.

Parts of Afghanistan suffered the harshest winter in decades. Heavy snowfall and exceptionally low temperatures killed over 1,000 people and hundreds of thousands of livestock, according to Afghanistan National Disasters Management Authority (ANDMA) figures.

In February a national emergency commission – made up of several government and non-governmental bodies – warned that 21 out of the country’s 34 provinces were “vulnerable” to spring floods. The warning had prompted aid agencies to plan for a possible humanitarian emergency.

However, UNAMA’s latest findings show that warm weather since mid-February has already melted up to 70 percent of the snow in areas which experienced exceptionally heavy snowfall in the past several months.

Possible drought?

The current “snow-water equivalent” is 25 percent less than average – and 90 percent less than in 2007 – which indicates that the amount of water stored in the snowpack is low for this time of year, UNAMA said.

“This does not bode well for the main ‘Aram’ [wheat] crop, which is planted in different areas from August to October and will be harvested in 2009,” said Higgins, adding that 80 percent of water used for irrigation comes from surface sources.

According to UNAMA, farmers in the northern provinces of Faryab, Badakhshan and Balkh will probably face shortages of irrigation water even in the first cultivation season, which will negatively affect the staple crop harvest in 2008.

“Farmers are right to be concerned about drought,” Higgins said.

Parts of Afghanistan, particularly southern, western and southwestern provinces, have already faced years of drought, which has devastated the livelihoods of many agriculture-and-livestock-dependent communities.

Humanitarian agencies are concerned that drought will worsen the plight of the eight million or so food-insecure people in the country.

Written by afghandevnews

March 18, 2008 at 4:24 am

Posted in Natural Disasters

Afghanistan: Extreme cold hits farmers

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Rome, 29 February (AKI) – The harshest winter in nearly 30 years has devastated Afghanistan’s livestock sector, killing over 300,000 animals since late December and seriously affecting people’s livelihoods, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Friday.

High fuel, vegetable oil and cereals are compounding the vulnerability of poor households, reducing their access to food.

The extreme cold has killed over 800 people, and many others, especially shepherds and their families, have suffered severe frostbite, requiring disabling amputation, according to a recent FAO report.

Food and medical supplies have been running short as roads in remote areas remain blocked by heavy snowfall. Winter crops in the hardest-hit areas have been severely damaged, in particular vegetables, which are the main source of nutrition during the lean winter months.

“The situation is very worrying,” said Samuel Kugbei, acting FAO representative in Afghanistan. “Livestock are a lifeline for many of the affected households, whose food situation is already precarious. Without assistance, they risk even greater food insecurity.”

FAO has distributed 20 tonnes of feed in Herat, one of the hardest-hit provinces. FAO is also providing 60 tonnes of feed concentrate to the worst-affected farmers in Bamyan Province.

The European Commission’s humanitarian aid department has pledged over 500 000 dollars to provide 500 tonnes of feed concentrate.

High world wheat prices, and the low purchasing power of the bulk of the population, mean that the country’s commercial import requirement this year of 550,000 tonnes of wheat, the main staple, is unlikely to be met and the figure may need to be revised upwards.

The UN agency is seeking over 2 million dollars to provide an additional 1 500 tonnes of feed, as well as vaccines, multi-vitamins and anti-parasitic treatment for the livestock of 50,000 vulnerable farming families.

The food aid requirement had been estimated at 100 000 tonnes of wheat. Early prospects for the 2008 wheat crop, currently in its dormancy period, are favourable, however.

With temperatures beginning to rise, snow is melting rapidly in the mountains and flooding of major rivers is expected in the spring. FAO is currently working with the national disaster management authorities and its UN and humanitarian partners on measures to prepare for and respond to flooding.

Written by afghandevnews

March 1, 2008 at 1:35 pm

Almost 1,000 dead from cold snap in Afghanistan

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Sat Feb 16, 6:34 AM ET

KABUL (AFP) – Nearly 1,000 people have died in heavy snowstorms and severe cold during the harshest winter to hit Afghanistan in 30 years, the disaster authority said Saturday.

More 130,000 livestock have also died and hundreds of homes destroyed or damaged by the heavy snowfalls, an official at the National Disaster Management Authorities said.

“Now we know that 926 people have been killed. Over 200 other people have been wounded in cold and other related incidents such as avalanches and snowstorms,” said Ahmad Shkeb Hamraz.

Authorities last week reported 760 people had died from the cold and Hamraz said dozens had their hands or toes amputated due to frostbite.

More than half of the casualties were reported from the hard-hit western province of Herat and surrounding regions, he added.

Authorities said earlier that nearly half the villages in western Afghanistan had been cut off from major cities due to heavy snowfalls, which were two metres deep in some areas.

Written by afghandevnews

February 17, 2008 at 2:23 am

Posted in Natural Disasters