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Afghanistan: A race against time

30-11-2000 News Release 00/46

ICRC staff narrowly won a race against time when they managed to reach an isolated community in a remote area of Afghanistan last week before it was cut off from the outside world by the country's harsh winter conditions.

Food and cooking oil were distributed by the ICRC to some 28,000 families in the drought-devastated district of Chagcharan, in Ghor province, to supplement wheat previously supplied by Oxfam and the World Food Programme. The food should cover the population's needs for the coming six months. In addition, the beneficiaries received blankets from the ICRC while the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies provided around 7,000 of the poorest families with warm winter clothing.

It was vital that the operation be completed as soon as possible since heavy snowfalls invariably seal off the roads into Chagcharan, making further aid distributions impossible. Aid organizations have combined their efforts to enable the population to stay in their homes and thus spare them the need to flee to the nearby city of Herat. In addition to the relief distributions, the Afghan Red Crescent Society, supported by the International Federation, has reinforced its district branch with newly trained health-care volunteers to help the residents through the winter.

At the same time the ICRC is planning to foster self-sufficiency among families who have remained and possible returnees to the area by launching an agricultural programme, which will include seed distributions. It is due to begin next year.