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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
05 February 2007

AFGHANISTAN: Thousands of IDPs need urgent assistance - local officials

HELMAND, 5 Feb 2007 (IRIN) - Some 8,000 people have fled their homes in the Musa Qala district in the southern Helmand province in the last three days and many need urgent assistance, local officials reported on Monday.

They are fleeing in fear of anticipated NATO attacks on suspected Taliban insurgents who allegedly overran the district last week.

"Thousands of displaced people have fled to the nearby Baghran, Nawzad and Grishk districts. Many of them are currently living in the desert ...without proper shelter, food and medicine in this harsh winter. Some families have come to Lashkar Gah city [provincial capital of Helmand]," Assadullah Mayar, head of the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) in Helmand province, told IRIN.

"We are distributing food items, and blankets to some 250 displaced families," Mayar said, adding that it was not enough. Mayar said residents in Musa Qala are continuing to flee their homes.

Abdul Qadar, deputy head of the department of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (RRD) in the province called on aid agencies to provide urgent assistance. "The displaced families are in urgent need of tents, blankets and food items," Qadar told IRIN, from Lashkar Gah city.

Taliban fighters, who are waging a deadly insurgency following their ouster in December 2001 by the US-led coalition, swarmed the town of Musa Qala late on Friday and destroyed some government buildings. Villagers fled their homes fearing possible NATO air strikes on Taliban insurgents.

"We left our home after the Taliban captured the district building. All the villagers were scared that NATO would carry out heavy bombing on them [the Taliban] or a fierce battle could break out, so we decided to leave our village and find a safer place," Haji Allah Dad, 41, who fled to Lashkar Gah city with his 11-member family on Sunday, told IRIN.

"We have not received any assistance from anyone yet," Allah Dad, who is living in a rented house in Lashkar Gah city, said.

Wali Mohammad, 35, was forced to move to Lashkar Gah city on Saturday along with his seven-member family: "When the Taliban came to the district [Musa Qala], several fighter planes were flying above our villages, so people were afraid and everyone was trying to evacuate their families."

"Nobody has asked us about our needs and our harsh conditions yet."

Insecurity and the military operations in Musa Qala forced the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) NGO, to stop its humanitarian activities in the area last week. BRAC is a partner of the government-led National Solidarity Programme (NSP) which is providing humanitarian and development assistance such as building roads, canals, and health clinics.

"We had around 50,000 beneficiaries in some 40 villages in Musa Qala district, but currently all of them are deprived of our assistance," Abul Mansoor, provincial programme manager of BRAC in Helmand province, told IRIN. "We will resume our activities in Musa Qala as soon as the security is enhanced."

The governor of Helmand, Assadullah Wafa, said that the government and NATO troops would try their best to avoid civilian casualties.

"Our first effort is to avoid any civilian casualties during our … military operation against the Taliban in Musa Qala. The basic aim of our military operation is to create a peaceful environment for the residents of Musa Qala," Wafa, told IRIN.

The growing Taliban-led insurgency, which claimed the lives of some 4,000 people, including around 1,000 civilians last year, has made many south and eastern parts of Afghanistan off-limit for aid workers.

British forces left Musa Qala in October last year after elders and the Helmand provincial governor struck a deal that turned over security to local leaders and prevented NATO forces from entering the town.

Taliban insurgents have blamed NATO troops for breaching the agreement and killing one of its senior leaders late last month, but the 32,000 NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) stationed in Afghanistan, said that the Taliban was never a part of the Musa Qala agreement and the deal was between the provincial governor and tribal elders, with the support of the ISAF.

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This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2007



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