Afghanistan: WFP in race before winter snows and flooding

Published on 29 November 2006

Ahead of the winter freeze, WFP is racing to complete deliveries of food for impoverished Afghans living in communities that will be cut off once the bitter cold arrives and heavy snows set in – and in other parts of the embattled country, the food agency is providing assistance to victims of severe floods.

Ahead of the winter freeze, WFP is racing to complete deliveries of food for impoverished Afghans living in communities that will be cut off once the bitter cold arrives and heavy snows set in – and in other parts of the embattled country, the food agency is providing assistance to victims of severe floods.

Thousands of people are in need of our assistance. We have to reach them before winter does – and that means within the next few weeks

Rick Corsino, WFP Representative in Afghanistan

With winter approaching, 21,000 metric tons of food – including wheat, beans, oil and salt – need to be positioned and then distributed to 600,000 vulnerable people located in over half the provinces of Afghanistan, before the heavy snows set in.

The operation is beset with difficulties posed by bad weather and increased insecurity due to the continuing conflict.

Positioning focus

“Winter is a brutal time in Afghanistan. Hundreds of villages that are remote today will be impossible to reach within the coming weeks,” said Rick Corsino, WFP Representitive in Afghanistan.

“Right now our focus is on positioning food in these areas, as well as moving forward with our drought relief efforts in more readily accessible areas.”

Many areas of the country, especially the west, northwest and far east, are also affected by localised flooding at this time of the year.

Flood victims

WFP is now assisting Government and other agencies in relief efforts for over 24,000 flood victims in the provinces of Nangarhar, Badghis, Farah, Uruzgan, Faryab and Jawzjan.

In preparation for oncoming snows, WFP has already delivered 16,000 tons of food, or all of its planned winterisation assistance to the winter-affected provinces of Badakshan, Nuristan, Kunar, Ghor, Wardak, and Nangarhar - and more than 80 percent to Bamyan and Badghis provinces.

But poor road conditions, worsened by early snows and heightened insecurity along some key road corridors have impacted food deliveries to thousands of people in areas of higher elevation.

Winterisation

“Winterisation” deliveries to the central highlands province of Daikundi, in particular, have been hampered. Some higher mountain passes have already been closed due to early snows. Because of rains and snow, trips that might take three hours in the summer are now taking up to a day, or more.

“In the higher passes roads are barely wide enough to allow a single truck to move. So when a vehicle breaks down, or cannot progress because of snow or mud, traffic in both directions can be halted for several hours, or even longer,” said Corsino.

More than 1,000 tons of food are still en route to these locations.

“Thousands of people are in need of our assistance. We have to reach them before winter does – and that means within the next few weeks,” said Corsino.

Creative schemes

WFP uses creative schemes to support both relief and development efforts.

These include food for the construction of roads to achieve or improve access, and wells to provide permanent water supply and other community assets; food for people attending training; and food for school children.

The very timely and generous response of donors has ensured there is food to meet these challenges and get the beneficiaries through the winter.

But because of the very long lead time between confirmation of a contribution and the distribution of the food to a hungry person, by March 2007 the Programme will face shortfalls in all commodities.

Further donations are urgently needed now to avoid such shortfalls, including 6,000 tons of fortified biscuits needed to enable the school meals programme to commence at the start of the new school year in March.