'Focus' Moves to Assist Quake Victims

The East African (Nairobi)
April 1, 2002
Posted to the web April 1, 2002
A Correspondent

SERIOUS CHALLENGES continue to face outlying populations of quake-hit Nahrin District in Afghanistan as aid agencies consider downscaling relief efforts around Nahrin City. Inaccessible populations, landmines, water and sanitation, and changing weather remain major problems.

After discussions with various agencies in Nahrin last Friday, Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS), an international emergency response agency affiliated with the Aga Khan Development Network, is supplementing its relief distribution with an urgent programme to address water and sanitation needs. It is also looking to collaborate with the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UNOCHA) and the Afghan government in reaching by helicopter people affected by last Monday's earthquake who remain inaccessible.

"With heavy rains possible in the coming days, we are working closely with UNOCHA to see how we can help the people in the southeast of Nahrin District. Access is blocked by landslides and routes have not been cleared of mines," said Farid Daya, FOCUS Programme Co-ordinator in Nahrin. "FOCUS teams have already distributed food supplied by the World Food Programme (WFP) and other essential items in Nahrin centre."

"Regular water sources have been blocked by dams created by landslides and our engineers have begun to put in place reservoirs to meet immediate needs, and also to look at sanitation and related requirements for the intermediate term," Mr Daya continued.

"FOCUS's water and sanitation work will build on our existing rehabilitation efforts and lead into the longer term development programme that the Aga Khan Development Network plans in the province," he said.

FOCUS has already mobilised four-wheel drive vehicles and cargo trucks to the site and has pre-positioned food stocks to support 20,000 people. From its regional stockpiles, it has flown in tents, water purifiers, stoves, a further 20,000 blankets, 24,000 galoshes, 57,000 pairs of rubber boots, as well as socks, shoes, plastic sheeting and mattresses.

Around 40 villages within a radius of 25km of the city of Nahrin are reported to have been destroyed, leaving 30-40,000 homes in ruins. The worst affected are the Old City of Nahrin and Hafiz-Wacha.

FOCUS has been providing emergency relief in the region since 1996 through a permanent office in Baghlan Province. Over the past two years, it has become increasingly involved in rehabilitation of infrastructure and support for the agriculture, health and education sectors in Afghanistan. FOCUS was also actively involved in providing assistance during the earthquake that struck Takhar Province in 1998.

As an international group of agencies established in Europe, North America and South Asia, FOCUS helps people in need reduce their dependence on humanitarian aid and facilitates their transition to sustainable, self-reliant, long-term development. The Aga Khan Development Network is a group of institutions working to improve living conditions and opportunities for people of all faiths and origins, in specific regions of the developing world.

Last week Chairman Hamid Karzai and His Highness the Aga Khan signed an Agreement of Cooperation for Development which provides the framework for an extensive long-term development programme encompassing food security, healthcare, education, urban redevelopment and cultural restoration following a $75 million pledge by the Aga Khan towards reconstruction in Afghanistan.