IDPs in Helmand need urgent aid

Garmser IDPs in front of the ARCS office in Lashkargah city seeking assistance.
(Aziz Ahmad Tasal/IRIN)

Thousands of Afghans who fled their homes in the Garmser district of southern Helmand province in late April because of fighting between the US military and Taliban insurgents have yet to receive any form of aid, provincial officials said.

audio archive Hear radio version of this report in Dari or Pashto

Ahmad Shah, 43, a displaced person (IDP) from Garmser, standing under the scorching sun with others outside the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) office in Lashkargah, said: "Now my family and I live almost 10km from Lashkargah city. I have made a shelter from blanket pieces to live under in an open area."

Shah said that over the week he could provide just one meal of potatoes and flat bread for his family. "I left my home with four children and my wife three weeks ago because of fighting. Now I need a tent, I need food, my children may die under the hot burning sun of Lashkargah," he shouted.

Helmand is widely described as a hotbed of the Taliban insurgency that the Afghan government is trying to root out. International rights watchdogs, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), have accused the Taliban, of not protecting and deliberately targeting civilians.

Capt Kelly Frushour, a US military spokeswoman in Kabul, told IRIN in early May about 2,400 US marines had been sent to the volatile province– to defeat the insurgents and improve security in the area.

Gulab Mangal, governor of Helmand province, told IRIN that more than 4,000 families had been displaced over the past month and needed assistance in different districts of Helmand, including the capital Lashkargah. "But so far these families haven't got any food or non-food assistance," Mangal said.


Photo: Aziz Ahmad Tasal/IRIN
Displaced women from Garmser in Lashkargah say they need urgent assistance

Emergency help

According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), almost 180 tonnes of food, including wheat, pulses, oil and iodised salt, have been sent to Lashkargah in anticipation of IDPs affected by natural disasters, or displaced due to fighting in the area.

"Provincial government officials have submitted requests to the UN with a list of 1,500 battle-affected IDP families [about 9,000 people in Laskhargah city] in need of immediate emergency food and non-food items," Rick Corsino, WFP representative in Kabul, told IRIN.

But the ARCS expressed concern that the food distribution had not started yet while the affected people were in dire need of assistance.
"I met families in the outskirts of Lashkargah city, who had not had food in days, lying under the trees and in the sun in that hot weather in Helmand," Asadullah Mayar, head of ARCS in Helmand, told IRIN.

WFP in Kabul said the reason for the delay was to identify the really needy people. "Our partner NGOs are working right now in Lashkargah and surrounding areas to identify the affected people so that we don't give the assistance to those who don't need it," said Corsino.

Corsino added that as soon as they heard from the assessment team, they would ask their partners to start distribution.

However, governor Mangal emphasised that more aid was needed as the number of displaced families needing food and shelter was higher than 1,500.

Thousands of people have reportedly died and tens of thousands been forced out of their homes due to the fighting in Helmand province over the past few years. The conflict has also impeded humanitarian and development activities, which has exacerbated poverty there, said aid agencies.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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