In Afghanistan the number of people who have died as a result of the freezing temperatures and heavy snow over the past few weeks has risen to over 700. The worst affected areas are the western provinces of Herat and Badghis, says the country’s National Disasters Management Authority. Many villages in the north of the country have also been cut off.
A German soldier places a package of relief goods on a wheel barrel
Zamin is shivering as he arrives at the aid distribution centre of the German army in Aliabad. The old man is one of the residents of a village in Mazar-e Sharif, north of Kabul. The area has been badly hit by one of the harshest winters ever.
Many villages in the province on the north of Kabul have been cut off by heavy snow. People are running out of food and fuel. Zamin explains, it is not going to be easy for his family to survive. “The cold has hit us very hard. I did buy a lot of coal but it was not enough. I have to buy food and other commodities for a nine member family and I have no job. “
No Food No Fuel
After the fall of the Taliban regime six years ago, the Government offered the refugees who returned to their country some land in Aliabad. The village has grown steadily since then, though it doesn’t have electricity yet. People cook and heat with wood, coal or gas. But fuels are getting expensive. The price of gas has doubled recently. And many residents say they are unable to continue with their work because of the extreme weather.
Aliabad is an area, which is close to the German ISAF headquarters in Mazar-e-Sharif. The German troops, which are engaged in long term reconstruction, are using trucks and tankers to reach the area to distribute relief goods, as one of soldiers explains: "We are currently distributing flour, beans, rice, oil and blankets – which should be enough for about three to four weeks. But we will continue our aid operations in the coming days.
Relief Aid not enough
ISAF troops have also identified other towns near the German camp in Mazar-e-Sharif that need immediate help. The regional commander of the ISAF forces has allotted an estimated 250, 000 euro from the defence budget for the relief work. Backed by other international agencies, the Afghan government has also dispatched relief supplies to many affected communities.
But many complain that the assistance is still not enough. Riza is one of them: ”The relief supplies that we have right now will be consumed within a day. And we have nothing else. No clothes, no fuel and no food. It would be good if the soldiers could provide us with more aid.“
According to the National Disasters Management Authority, the extreme weather has already claimed more than 700 lives. The victims were mainly children and elderly people, with many failing to cope with winter diseases such as pneumonia and other respiratory infections. Tens of thousands of cattle have also died. Weather experts say the cold spell is expected to last for more than a month. Meanwhile the speaker of the lower house in Kabul has warned of a vote of no-confidence against the government representatives sitting on the emergency response commission, unless they boost and expand humanitarian assistance.