UN boosts aid to vulnerable Afghans as winter conditions take hold

A young boy carriers blankets for his family [File Photo]

5 January 2010 – United Nations agencies have stepped up their humanitarian relief efforts to help tens of thousands of vulnerable Afghans survive the bitter winter weather in the east of the country, the world body’s mission there, known as UNAMA, said today.

Last month the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) began distributing blankets, plastic sheets, jerry cans, warm clothing and gas cylinders to some 4,100 returning refugee and displaced families in eastern provinces where temperatures can plummet to minus 20 degrees Celsius in January, the coldest month.

In addition, more than 12,000 vulnerable families, or 72,000 individuals, will receive a cash voucher worth $30 to buy heating materials or other items of their choice from approved retailers.

“This year, our winterization package is much better than last year’s, because the number of items for each family has been increased,” said UNHCR’s Assistant Field Officer in the eastern city of Jalalabad, Esaq Shirzai.

“For instance, the winterization package includes warm clothes, shawls and gas cylinders. Also, the number of blankets given to a family has been increased from three to six,” added Mr. Shirzai.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO) have also provided extra assistance to the vulnerable people in Afghanistan’s eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Laghman and Kunar, which are on or close to the rugged border with Pakistan.

WFP has stocked stores in areas where roads could be blocked by heavy snow with over 5,000 tons of wheat, including 2,018 tons in Nangarhar, 374 tons in Laghman, and 1,028 tons in Kunar.

Meanwhile, WHO has distributed 34 cartons of pneumonia kits, 36 cartons of emergency health kits, 870 bags of Ringer Serum, 23 cartons of diarrhoea kits, 14 cartons of essential medicines and 55 cartons of medicines for tuberculosis to the hospitals of the three provinces, as well as Nuristan province.

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