IRIN News, January 16, 2008

Over 140 killed, dozens injured as winter bites in Afghanistan

Prices of food items and fuel have risen sharply in many areas making it more difficult for poor rural families to meet their food and heating requirements.

KABUL - Heavy snow and extremely cold weather have killed at least 140, mostly children and elderly people, and injured many others in different parts of Afghanistan, over the past two weeks, according to the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authorities (ANDMA) and provincial authorities.

In Herat Province, bordering Iran, local officials said dozens lost their lives and several others were injured after temperatures fell to -25 degrees Centigrade.

Afghan women begs in snowfall (\kab-jan05.htm )
Afghanistan is ranked 173rd out of 178 on the Human Development Index calculated by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which estimates that 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line of $2 a day.

"Our reports indicate that 105 people died and 17 others are missing across the province," said Agha Mohammad Siddiqi, chairman of the emergency response commission in Herat Province.

In neighbouring Ghor Province cold weather and heavy snow killed at least 20 people and injured 25 others, Abdul Matin Edrabk, director of ANDMA, told IRIN.

About 20 people, mostly children, also died in Farah and Daykundi provinces where a shortage of food and fuel in local markets has caused widespread concerns among rural inhabitants, ANDMA said.

Figures compiled by ANDMA show that almost 30,000 farm animals died in Ghor, Faryab, Saripul and Herat provinces.

Aid convoy blocked

For the past two weeks, roads to dozens of districts in over 15 of the country's 34 provinces have remained blocked, and traders have been unable to transport food, fuel and other goods to local markets.

As a result, prices of food items and fuel have risen sharply in many areas making it more difficult for poor rural families to meet their food and heating requirements.

A convoy of commercial trucks carrying about 800 metric tonnes (mt) of UN World Food Programme (WFP) food aid to Daykundi Province in central Afghanistan could not reach its final destination due to blocked roads and extremely cold weather, WFP said.

The food aid was intended for 10,000 vulnerable families through food-for-work projects, said Ebadullah Ebadi, a WFP spokesman in Kabul. "We will keep trying to deliver the aid in the near future."

WFP has already distributed and/or stocked 22,000 mt of mixed food aid in 17 vulnerable provinces across the country through a pre-winter preparatory programme.

Haji Abdul Baqi Akrami, deputy governor of Daykundi Province, told IRIN on the phone that shortages of food items, particularly wheat flour, have increasingly affected people in isolated districts.

Officials in Ghor and Farah provinces echoed the concerns and demanded urgent humanitarian relief be delivered to thousands of food-insecure people.

Weak response capacity

Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for "urgent" and "comprehensive" relief delivery to those affected by the severe weather in Herat Province and other parts of the country, said a statement issued by his office on 13 January.

While aid has reached some affected families in Herat Province and elsewhere, the Afghan Red Crescent Society and other government relief bodies say lack of resources and a weak implementation capacity are hindering efforts to respond effectively.

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