Afghanistan - All hope of finding survivors amid the metres-deep mud that covers the village of Abi Barik in northeast Afghanistan has been extinguished, and the site declared a mass grave for the thousands who perished.
While IOM is still mounting a major relief effort in the Argo district of Badakhshan province, trucking in kits containing blankets, solar lamps, cooking utensils, stoves, soap, and other relief items, planning has already begun for the recovery phase of the operation.
“Working alongside government, UN and NGO partners, we have been able to address the most crucial immediate needs in this remote mountainous region,” said IOM Chief of Mission Richard Danziger, speaking from Faizabad, the provincial capital on Monday.
“But now we have to see what can be done to help survivors get back on their feet. Their houses will need to be rebuilt; they will also need help to recover their livelihoods. But we must not forget that over the past two weeks over 70,000 other people in northern Afghanistan have also been severely affected by floods. The needs go well beyond Argo district.”
IOM’s flood response in the region of the past several weeks, funded by USAID/OFDA, included shipments of blankets and warm clothing, personal hygiene materials and kitchen sets for cooking and storing food to the stricken areas.
To date, IOM has assisted more than 900 families (6,300 individuals) in Balkh, Faryab, and Samangan provinces, while a further 690 families (4,830 individuals) will be assisted in Faryab and Sar-e-Pul in the coming days. In addition, 1,800 relief and emergency shelter kits are currently being distributed to flood-affected families in Jawzjan, the worst hit province.
IOM staff from other regions have been deployed to facilitate the assessments and distributions. In addition, stocks from IOM warehouses in Kabul and Paktia have been dispatched to supplement materials already pre-positioned in the north.
The Organization also has a long-running disaster risk reduction (DRR) programme in northern Afghanistan, which among other aspects is creating kilometres of gabion walls (rocks inside chicken-wire) which form stout walls to prevent floods. Measures such as these will help limit the damage caused by an increasing number of natural disasters caused by heavy rain, snow, landslides and earthquakes, in a region where most dwellings are built of mud bricks.
“We are used to dealing with climatic disasters in Afghanistan and the government and humanitarian community have proved they can generally meet immediate relief needs. The challenge now is to come together to plan and implement longer-term programmes that will minimize the human and material damage caused by annual flooding and other natural disasters,” notes Richard Danziger.
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Matt Graydon in Badakhshan
Richard Danziger in Kabul