UN uses airdrops to get food to Afghans isolated by heavy snowfalls

“This situation has caused a number of deaths, which worries us and is of concern,” UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told a news briefing today in Kabul, the Afghan capital, noting that confirmed deaths from disease alone had reached 211.The situation is being tackled through a winter coordination group that meets every other day, bringing together Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Deputy Special Representative Ameerah Haq, officials from nine Government ministries, the United States-led coalition forces, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) representing the donor community, he said.One of the most affected areas is the central province of Ghor, where the World Food Programme (WFP) has managed to distribute 182 tons of food through local implementing partners from supplies that had been pre-positioned last September in anticipation of a possible winter need.Because access has proven so difficult WFP is considering new food airdrops, possibly starting today, with the Government and the coalition forces, following a series last week to relieve another isolated area, the southeastern province of Zabul.WFP managed to get a land convoy into Ghor’s Shahrak district on Sunday with 18 tons of wheat, pulses and oil and another convoy with 25 tons of food is expected to reach the area in the coming days. Snow equipment is also on its way to free a six-truck relief convoy carrying 140 tons of food that has been stuck in snow for the last three weeks, 60 kilometres from its final destination – the isolated districts of Saghar and Tulak.Meanwhile, the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) has coordinated snow clearance programme with the Ministry of Public Works in 12 provinces, covering 27 mountain passes. But strong winds and avalanches have interrupted work in clearing four passes in the Central Highlands. With the Shibar pass and the Salang tunnel closed, all roads leading to the north are now closed.The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), meanwhile, has supplied over 40,000 vulnerable families across the country with blankets, plastic sheets, sleeping mats, lanterns, soap and disposable diapers for families with young children.

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