US Airlift Targets 70,000 Afghans Displaced by Drought

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) is responding to the Afghan crisis with a major airlift of aid, including plastic sheeting, blankets and kitchen sets, to help 10,000 families or 70,000 individuals.

US Ambassador John Bass, Afghan and IOM officials welcome the first of three flights carrying US aid to drought victims in Herat, western Afghanistan. Photo: IOM 

IOM is organizing warehousing of the aid and its distribution in Herat and Badghis over the next three weeks.

The first of three C-17 aircraft carrying the aid landed in Herat on Saturday (17/11). Two more aircraft are scheduled to arrive in the coming days.

Ambassador John Bass, speaking at Herat airport, welcomed the airlift. “The United States confirms its continuous support to the Afghan people, and we thank IOM for cooperating with USAID/OFDA in helping thousands of displaced Afghan families,” he said. 

Deputy Governor of Badghis Malikzada also welcomed the aid but said that more would need to be done to alleviate suffering caused by the drought. “Assistance also needs to be provided in places of origin through investment in the agricultural sector, so that people can sustain themselves in their places of origin. We do not want to establish camps in urban centres and create subsidized communities that permanently rely on aid for survival,” he said.

So far, 8,341 families have received non-food relief items, including blankets and household items, and 5,031 have received emergency shelter. The assistance was distributed by IOM, UNHCR, IFRC, DRC, IRC and NRC. UNICEF has committed to cover the needs of an additional 3,000 families. 

 3.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in 20 of the most drought-affected provinces in Afghanistan, UN World Food Programme reported last week.

Afghanistan is currently facing its worst drought in decades. The Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) and humanitarian partners have so far identified 35,549 families (223,100 individuals) displaced in the western provinces of Herat, Badghis and Ghor between January and October 2018.

Of these, 44 per cent or close to 100,000 individuals are children below the age of 18, and 19 per cent are below the age of five. More than half of the displaced have settled in Herat city, 39 per cent are in and around Qala-e-Naw, the provincial capital of Badghis, and the remaining two per cent in other provinces.

The displaced population is desperately poor and lack access to food, water, shelter and health services. Many are living in tents or in the open air with the onset of freezing winter temperatures. 

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