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IN AFGHANISTAN, SPRING ISN’T JUST BLOSSOM

By Javier Delgado Rivera

On March 17, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued its spring disaster contingency plan for Afghanistan. A compelling $390 million-call to donors where it warns that 13.2 million people in the country will need humanitarian assistance during the next months, in particular across 25 provinces.

OCHA alerts that low rainfall and the high temperatures associated with La Niña weather event will drive drought-like conditions, affecting rain-fed and irrigated agriculture and livestock, and  impact the availability of water for drinking, washing and sanitation.

However, this UN agency notes that, while floods will likely be reduced compared to other years, flash flooding due to sporadic spring storms remains a risk.

And, as every Afghan is painfully aware, the warmer spring season translates too into a period where volatility and an escalation in fighting can certainly be anticipated.

Below are, according to OCHA, the most urgent humanitarian needs in Afghanistan for the months to come:

On food Security and Agriculture (13 million people in need). Some of the assistance the UN considers Afghanistan requires to prevent people from going hungry this spring is: Food aid (in-kind and cash), livestock protection as well as the monitoring of precipitation, coupled with a continued gauging in real-time of the severity of La Niña.

Nutrition (1.6 million people in need). Here OCHA advocates for the delivery of nutrition treatment through health facilities, mobile teams and supplementary feeding for undernourished children.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (2.7 million people in need). This is an area with profound deficiencies in Afghanistan that requires rehabilitation of water wells and boreholes, repair of hand-pumps and the provision of purification tablets. Furthermore, there is a long-neglected need to build up gender-appropriate sanitation facilities and provide kits to promote COVID-sensitive hygiene.

Health (554,000 people in need). A field more essential now than ever before that demands routine surveillance of (and response to) diseases like COVID-19, acute diarrhea and measles. Afghanistan also needs to expand its emergency health services through mobile and static clinics to, among other services, provide mental counseling.

Protection (3.1 million people in need). In this area, OCHA points to the following priorities: Individual protection assistance, clearance of explosive hazards, child and gender-based violence protection, tracing of unaccompanied or separated children and legal support.

Emergency Shelter (2 million people in need). The UN urges donors to support programs providing household items and supply emergency kits, tools and materials (both cash and in-kind) for shelter repair and upgrade.

Education in emergencies (883,000 million people in need).This multilateral agency also recognizes the importance to set up temporary learning spaces for children and deliver more teaching supplies. In addition, the UN insists, Afghan kids need to have access to safe and healthy educational settings, but hygiene articles, as well as clean water and regular meals, are currently in short supply.

Javier Delgado Rivera is a New York-based independent journalist focused on the United Nations. Over the last 15 years, his articles have appeared in dozens of media outlets worldwide. He runs @TheUNTimes on Twitter and can be reached at delgadorivera@gmail.com.

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