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Update No. 98/03 on ICRC activities for victims of the earthquake in Afghanistan

23-02-1998 Operational Update No 98/03

 International relief operation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent  

 Another Earthquake hits region  

During the early evening (local time) today, a strong earthquake registering over 6.4 on the Richter scale, shook houses in several parts of northern Afghanistan and Pakistan. All delegates in the disaster operation area are reported to be safe. The Red Cross team, in conjunction with the other relief organizations in Afghanistan, is preparing to carry out an assessment of the impact of this latest natural disaster.

 First ICRC airdrop delivers 13 tonnes of aid  

After two weeks of thwarted attempts to deliver substantial relief supplies to the survivors of Takhar's earthquake, the ICRC-chartered Hercules C-130 successfully completed it's first round-trip from Peshawar to Rostaq yesterday (Thursday, 19 February). The onward transmission of 720 blankets, 800 kg soap, 2.8 mt of laundry soap, 57 cooking sets and 6 tarpaulins to Rostaq's out-lying villages is being carried out by helicopter. An estimated 18 Hercules rotations are envisaged over the next two weeks (two to three flights per day) in order to deliver supplies from Peshawar. The Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) is assisting distributions to villages and establishing lists of beneficiaries.

The ICRC-chartered plane is also at the disposal of the various United Nations agencies taking part in the relief operation. The contents of al l airdrops are planned according to priority needs as identified by the ICRC, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (the Federation), UNOCHA and other agencies. The World Food Programme and UNHCR have substantial food stocks in the region; 20 tonnes of wheat flour will be airdropped on Monday (23 February).

 Relief activities  

Given the atrocious weather conditions and concomitant logistical difficulties faced by aid agencies, air drops and distributions by helicopter were the only way to bring aid to the survivors quickly and effectively. However, whilst the most urgent supplies are being prioritized and delivered as outlined above, deliveries by plane for onward transmission by truck are also underway.

Whilst continuing to facilitate and coordinate the delivery of relief items with other agencies, the ICRC itself envisages the following relief programme for 15,000 people:

- personal hygiene items; 20 mt soap

- household goods; blankets, stoves, jerrycans, cooking sets, coal

- clothing; second-hand clothes (133 bales from Federation stock in Mazar)

- shelter; 3,000 tents, 2,000 tarpaulins

- food items; BP5 biscuits, wheat flour, beans, oil, rice as " Food-for-work "

 Health activities  

The medical emergency is now over. Over the past ten days, over 600 injured people have been treated at the small hospital in Rostaq and a vaccination programme is already helping to reduce the risk of epidemics. Further to its assessments, the ICRC envisages elaborating programmes along the following lines:

Water sanitation programme

- support to health structures

- support to 15,000 displaced persons with water purification chemicals, water storage and treatment units and sanitation material

 Cooperation and coordination within the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement  

The ICRC is the lead agency for the international relief operation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent in this context. At present there are some 23 specialists on the spot including 14 expatriates from the National Societies of Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Denmark and Britain. The Federation also has delegates in Rostaq, Dushanbe, Kabul, Peshawar, Islamabad and Delhi, providing support for this operation. This weekend, members of the ARCS and Federation delegates will begin the preliminary assessment for increasing disaster preparedness capacity in the local branches in view of the longevity of this operation and the upcoming flood season.