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AFGHANISTAN: Aid being distributed to displaced families in Musa Qala

KABUL, 19 December 2007 (IRIN) - Aid agencies, Afghan and international military forces and provincial authorities in southern Afghanistan are providing humanitarian relief to 1,500 battle-affected families in Musa Qala District, Helmand Province, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and provincial officials.

Local residents and officials in Helmand Province estimate about 1,200 families left their homes and livelihoods in Musa Qala District after Afghan and international forces launched a major military operation to retake the district from Taliban insurgents on 6 December.

The Taliban had been in control of the area since February 2007 but were driven out on 10 December by the Afghan army and international forces.

UNAMA on 17 December said "significant large-scale displacement" had not occurred in the area and only about 830 families might have been displaced as a result of fighting in Musa Qala.

"The needs [of displaced people] seem to be mostly for food and medical assistance, as they are being temporarily accommodated in people's homes, and these needs are being largely met by the government through military and civilian channels," said Charlie Heggins, the head of UNAMA's humanitarian unit.

"We have received reports from government sources and international military sources which indicate that the resulting humanitarian situation is not alarmingly severe," Heggins said.

Due to security restrictions, however, no comprehensive and reliable assessment of needs has been conducted so far, UNAMA said.

Avoiding protracted displacement

Aid agencies say urgent relief needs to reach battle-affected communities in Helmand Province, particularly Musa Qala District, to avoid a protracted humanitarian emergency in the area.

People will also need sustainable recovery and development assistance to rehabilitate their affected livelihoods and re-establish their lives.

"What is needed is continuing security in the area so that infrastructure can be repaired or improved, essential services provided and livelihood opportunities opened up," Heggins said.

The Afghan government and donors have pledged US$1 million for the rapid rebuilding of houses and shops damaged during fighting in the centre of Musa Qala District, Assadullah Wafa, the governor of Helmand, told IRIN from his office.

"More development aid will flow to Musa Qala in the near future," Wafa said.

Landmines

Efforts are also under way to clear the area of landmines and unexploded ordnance left behind by the Taliban insurgents, the governor of Helmand said.

In the post-conflict context aid organisations should have the freedom to deliver independent humanitarian and development assistance to the people of Helmand Province, UNAMA said.

If their needs remain unmet and problems increase "there is a risk that these people could join the 16,000 displaced people living in difficult circumstances across Helmand Province," Heggins warned.

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Theme(s): (IRIN) Aid Policy, (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

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Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



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