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Update No. 98/02 on ICRC activities for victims of the earthquake in Afghanistan

17-02-1998 Operational Update

 International relief operation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent  

 Taking advantage of a bright interval, f irst non-food relief supplies reach stricken villages  

Slightly better weather enabled relief trucks on Sunday 15 Feburary gradually to proceed along snow- and mudbound roads to reach the disaster area around Rostaq in the northern Afghan province of Takhar. The inhabitants of 27 villages are in desperate need of assistance, including some 15,000 people wo have been made homeless and are particularly vulnerable to the extreme cold.

During the weekend it was impossible to bring air supplies to Rostaq as the nearest airstrip in Khaja Ghar was too wet to allow aircraft to land. However, helicopters made available by the local authorities have allowed the ICRC to reach some of the affected villages in the area that had not yet been visited.

After being grounded by heavy rain and snow in Peshawar, an additional five ICRC delegates finally managed to reach Khaja Ghar today. They are currently making their way to Rostaq, an 80-km trip which can take up to ten hours. Three Federation delegates arrived from Dushanbe on 15 February.

 Relief activities  

The main priority is still to reach all 27 villages struck by the quake. On Sunday 15 February an ICRC delegate reached another ni ne localities by helicopter, bringing to 16 the number of villages that have received food and non-food relief assistance from the ICRC and other organizations, by air or by truck. Five of the villages were found to have been seriously affected.

 The following relief goods reached Rostaq during the weekend and are being distributed:  

- 4,800 blankets, 220 tents, 815 quilts and ten rolls of plastic sheeting, by two ICRC trucks and one Médecins sans frontières (MSF) truck;

- 1.7 tonnes of medical kits with Merlin, by helicopter chartered from Air Tajik. Shipments of plastic sheeting are in preparation.

- 300 jerrycans and about 2.1 tonnes of plastic sheeting, by ICRC truck from Taloqan;

- two truckloads of coal (Acted);

 The following are expected to arrive in Rostaq shortly:  

- three truckloads of coal (Acted);

- 50 tonnes of World Food Programme wheat flour, by truck from Faizabad;

- 2,100 blankets, 22 tarpaulins, 71 rolls of plastic sheeting (ICRC), 32 bales of clothes Oxfam), 5,010 blankets and 133 bales of clothes (Federation), by truck from Khwaje Ghor;

- 88 wood stoves and 480 cooking pots, by truck from Taloqan (ICRC);

- blankets, pullovers and shoes (from ICRC stocks), by helicopter from Panjshir;

- blankets, tents and plastic sheeting (ICRC), by truck from Pul-i-Khumri;

- 2 convoys from Tajikistan (ICRC and Federation).

 ICRC airdrop  in preparation  

An ICRC-chartered Hercules is leaving Brussels for Peshawar today in preparation for the airdrop operation scheduled to start mid-week and intended to supply some 1,500 tonnes of food and non-food items to the earthquake victims. Arrangements have been made for the Hercules to be put at the disposal of UN agencies and other aid organizations working in the region. An appropriate piece of land near Rostaq has been designated and prepared for the airdrop. 

 Health activities  

An ICRC surgeon arrived in Rostaq on February 13 to assess the situation in terms of surgical needs. 

These were his findings:

- the situation is under control to the extent that no additional surgical staff is needed. However, there is a need for surgical supplies, which will be flown to Rostaq as soon as the weather permits. As the hospital was overcrowded, a new facility has been found to accommodate up to 70 patients;

- a coordination meeting between the ICRC, Federation, Médecins sans frontières, Merlin, WHO and Asian Medical Aid resulted in the following conclusions: two assessment teams, each including a doctor and a nurse, will be joining the general assessment teams to treat people as they find them on the spot. This will help to avoid evacuating too many patients to the Rostaq hospital, and will enable further needs to be identified;

- an Asian Medical Aid team comprising two Japanese doctors has been designated to meet the medical needs of displaced people sheltering in the Rostaq school;

- no malnutrition has been observed in the places visited. Merlin is preparing a vaccination campaign to preempt any outbreak of epidemic. The materials needed are expected to arrive shortly from Dushanbe.

 Coordination  and cooperation within the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement  

The ICRC continues to play the role of lead agency for the international relief operation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent in this context of armed conflict. At present there are 14 experts on the spot, including a logistics officer, a press delegate and two relief experts from the Federation. With material and technical support from the ICRC and the Federation, the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) is working to meet the needs in the disaster-stricken communities and is implementing the ARCS/Federation Disaster Preparedness plan of action for the entire country.

 Cooperation with other agencies  

The various aid organizations, including the UN specialized agencies, are in regular contact, both in the stricken region and in Kabul, Islamabad and Peshawar. Coordination meetings are held in the earthquake area, Kabul, Dushanbe and Geneva.

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