Afghanistan UN helps 15000 displaced families in strifetorn south of country

Distribution of food and non-food items resumed yesterday after the Eid holiday at the end of the month-long Ramadan fasting period, UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) spokesman Aleem Siddique told a news briefing in Kabul, the capital, today. So far, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has provided food and other items to over 12,000 families in Panjwai and Zherai districts of Kandahar, as well as in Lashkar Gah in Helmand and Tirin Kot in Urzghan provinces.In addition, agencies including the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the inter-governmental International Organization for Migration (IOM) have provided essential non-food items, such as blankets, clothing, medical supplies and plastic sheets to some 7,000 families. Assistance is being coordinated by the Government’s Provincial Disaster Management Committees.The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is also using a $5-million contribution from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to bolster development and humanitarian activities for the people displaced by the recent fighting in Kandahar, especially in Panjwaye and Zharay districts.Meanwhile UNICEF, the UN World Health Organisation (WHO) and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners are launching a 10-day joint neonatal tetanus, measles and polio immunization campaign on Wednesday for eight provinces in the south and south east, involving both a house-to-house strategy to target mothers and a fixed centre strategy to immunize children aged 9 to 59 months.The first six provinces to be targeted will be Kandahar, Helmand, Nimroz, Paktya, Paktika and Khost. “We hope to vaccinate around 540,000 children in these provinces,” Mr. Siddique said. Immunization in two other provinces, Uruzgan and Zabul, will be completed later this year.In 2000, WHO estimated that 30,000 to 35,000 children under the age of five died as a result of measles. Successive immunization initiatives over the last few years led to a 94 per cent reduction in 2004 with 559 deaths reported. “Unfortunately, Afghanistan has experienced an outbreak of measles in the last two years with 836 cases reported in 2005 and 1,835 cases reported so far this year,” Mr. Siddique said. “We urge families in these provinces to cooperate with this vital health initiative over the coming weeks.” read more