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People face hunger as routes to Ghazni closed

AT-KABUL: People faced shortage of food, water and medicine in southern Ghazni as fighting between the armed forces and the Taliban triggered a closure of routes leading to the city, said UN agency on Tuesday.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Tuesdayvoiced concerns that the presence of the Taliban in civilian homes and market places has heightened the risk of civilian casualties arising from any military aerial response, while the placement of improvised explosive devices along highways has prevented civilians from safely fleeing the violence.

Following attacks against key Government offices, critical infrastructure has been damaged. Communications networks and the electricity supply are currently down in Ghazni, resulting in water shortages due to non-functional pumps.

There were reports of one airstrike within the city and several others outside of the city targeting positions of the armed group.

So far the fighting has reportedly resulted in 110 to 150 civilian casualties. The numbers still need to be verified. Some patients were able to reach First Aid Trauma Posts outside of the city and approximately 20 patients in critical conditions were transported to Kabul by a medical NGO for further treatment.

Markets and shops are closed in the contested areas. In villages outside the city, shops are reportedly open, with long lines of people and increased prices for food and water.

Limited telecommunications have hindered clarity over the ongoing contest for Ghazni City, although the Taliban reportedly has control over many strategic parts of the city.

Families have reportedly taken shelter in their houses and are unable to leave their homes, even to get water from wells and fountains. Food is reportedly running low. There are reports of families moving from their homes in the outskirts of the city to surrounding villages, sheltering with relatives.

The Ghazni main hospital is reportedly overwhelmed by the high number of casualties arriving. Off-duty health staff in accessible areas of the city have been transferred to the hospital in ambulances to support their on-duty colleagues. Eight surgeons are currently working in the hospital’s operation theatre. Due to ongoing fighting, reports have been received that residents are unable to safely bring injured persons to the hospital, indicating that the number of people requiring emergency medical treatment may rise over the coming days

Medication and medical supplies at the hospital are reportedly running low although some supplies, including body bags, have been received.

The hospital is powered by one generator but fuel is difficult to obtain since pump stations are closed. Yesterday, an international organization was able to deliver a sufficient amount of fuel to enable the hospital to run for the next three to four days.

Initial reports of large numbers of civilians fleeing the city to neighboring Wardak Province on Friday via the embattled Highway 1 have not been confirmed by authorities. Families are reportedly also trying to leave the city via smaller roads through the mountains. On Monday morning, reports were received from authorities of about 70 displaced people arriving in Gardez, Paktia.

There is no UN presence in Ghazni City but between 25-30 NGOs implement humanitarian programmes in the province and are on standby to respond once the security situation allows.

Existing stockpiles are sufficient to facilitate an immediate response in Ghazni City and include emergency household items for more than 6,000 people, 400 family tents, cash assistance for 9,800 people and nearly 140 MT of food to support 4,200 people for one month. Assessment teams have already been deployed to Wardak province to assess displaced families.

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