Afghanistan: More than 2 million people at risk of cold, disease and malnutrition

17 December, 2012
Winter aid distribution in Kudeki Stan settlement, Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit: OCHA/Christophe Verhellen
Winter aid distribution in Kudeki Stan settlement, Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit: OCHA/Christophe Verhellen

Aid organizations have warned that more than 2 million people in Afghanistan are at risk from cold, disease and malnutrition this winter, and are ramping up efforts to help vulnerable families prepare for the cold weather over the next few months. 

Last year, Afghanistan experienced one of the coldest winters and heaviest snowfalls in more than 15 years, with temperatures falling as low as -16° C. Scores of children living in informal settlements in Kabul died from the effects of the cold, and millions of people were affected. 
 
“Extreme winter in Afghanistan has a huge impact on people and their livelihood,” said Dr. Mohammad Daim Kakar, the Director General of Afghanistan’s National Disaster Management Authority. “The poorest communities, and women and children, are the most affected.” 
 
This year, preparations are underway to help Afghan families cope with harsh winter conditions. Earlier this month, the World Food Programme (WFP) and UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) launched a programme providing food and other winter supplies to more than 2,000 families in Afghanistan’s north-eastern provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan, Badakhshan and Takhar. 
 
The Afghan government is implementing a community-based initiative aimed at providing employment to people in the snow-prone areas by hiring them to clear about 1,300 kilometres of roads. 
 
In Kabul, home to approximately 30,000 displaced people living in camps and informal settlements, UN agencies and partners are distributing food, fuel including firewood and coal, clothes, tarpaulins, blankets and medicine. 
 
“The snow and the cold are about to come, and I am sure that without the wood, the blankets and the warm clothing, more children could die this winter,” said Aga Mohamed who lives in the Kudeki Stan settlement in Kabul. More than 100 families live there, mostly in makeshift tents without much protection against the harsh winter. Without any source of income, the majority of people depend heavily on humanitarian aid.     
 
Reporting by Christophe Verhellen/ OCHA Afghanistan