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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
04 October 2006

AFGHANISTAN: More assistance needed for 80,000 displaced by southern conflict

PANJWAI, 4 Oct 2006 (IRIN) - Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in southern Afghanistan who have left their homes due to fighting say they urgently need more assistance.

Recent fierce fighting between NATO, government and Taliban militants forced 40-year-old Bibe Gula to flee her home in Zangawat village in the district of Panjwai, some 30 km west of Kandahar city. She stood among dozens of other displaced villagers including men, women and children in Panjwai bazaar hoping to get assistance from the government.

“I lost everything in the fighting. My house was demolished during the air strikes and my two beloved brothers have lost their lives,” Gula said.

The fighting has forced some 15,000 families to flee their homes in three southern Afghan provinces since July, according to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

UNHCR spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis said in Geneva on Tuesday that the refugee agency was concerned about this displacement – amounting to approximately 80,000-90,000 people – in Kandahar, Uruzgan and Helmand provinces. She said it had added "new hardship to a population already hosting 116,400 people earlier uprooted by conflict and drought”.

Bibe Gula is one of thousands of villagers who fled during September’s Operation Medusa by NATO and government forces to flush out Taliban militants from Panjwai district - the spiritual and symbolic heartland of the Taliban. The fundamentalist group were toppled by the US-led coalition in 2001 but have now re-emerged and are waging a deadly insurgency against the government and foreign troops in Afghanistan.

“Thousands of people are in need of shelter as many of their houses have been destroyed or damaged during the fighting and air strikes,” Agha Mohammad Nazari, deputy director of the refugees and repatriation department in Kandahar, told IRIN.

Nazari admitted that the current level of assistance to the displaced was inadequate and that there was a need for more aid to meet the requirements of thousands of affected people and to encourage displaced families to return to their villages.

Meanwhile, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul announced on Monday that the development phase of Operation Medusa was well under way in the area, adding that between US $5 and $7 million had been committed by the US, Canadian and German governments.

To respond to this new displacement, the government of Afghanistan has formed a Disaster Management Committee in Kandahar aimed at coordinating relief efforts. The committee has been working in coordination with the United Nations System, led by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

In addition to food assistance provided by the World Food Programme (WFP), UNHCR, together with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has distributed non-food items (plastic sheeting, blankets, warm clothes for children, etc) to approximately 3,200 families in Panjwai and Zhari districts, according to UNHCR in Kabul.

Ebadullah Ebadi, a public information officer with WFP, said that the agency had already distributed 450 mt of food, consisting of a one month’s supply of wheat, pulses and oil, to 4,600 displaced families in Kandahar city.

“In addition, there are plans to distribute an additional 970 mt of food to 10,000 families located in Kandahar city as well as the most affected districts of Panjwai and Zhari. The ration includes 81 kg of wheat/rice, 5 kg of oil and 9 kg of pulses for a six-person family for one month,” Ebadi maintained.

But many of the displaced gathered in Panjwai bazaar interviewed by IRIN complained that aid delivery was very slow and insufficient to meet immediate needs.

“Even finding a loaf of bread for my five children to survive is so difficult for me. I have come here three times but didn’t get any food or tent. The [government] gives aid to those who are influential but ignores the real poor and needy people,” said Zarghona, 35, a widow who fled her home in Pashmol village in the district of Zhari.


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