IRC to Distribute Airlifted Emergency Supplies to Afghans
The International Rescue Committee is set to deliver emergency supplies to thousands of Afghan refugees who have recently fled to Pakistan, following a U.S. government airlift scheduled for Wednesday, February 7.
The U.S. Agency for International Development says the airlift is in response to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan that is displacing tens of thousands of Afghans and resulting in an influx of refugees into Pakistan.
USAID's aircraft departs Tuesday evening from Italy and arrives Wednesday morning in Peshawar, Pakistan. It will carry 500 tents, 5000 blankets and 100 rolls of plastic sheeting. The International Rescue Committee will transport supplies to the Jalozai and Shamshatoo refugee camps. In addition, USAID is providing the IRC with funding to purchase tents, blankets and water jugs locally.
Health kits, with supplies to treat 1,000 people for one month, will also be flown to Peshawar.
Over 100,000 Afghans have fled to Pakistan in recent months to escape Afghanistan’s continuing civil war, as well as hunger brought on by one of the region’s worst droughts in history. “New arrivals are living in squalid conditions with little more than old clothing to protect them from subzero temperatures at night,” says Gerald Martone, IRC’s director of emergency programs. The U.N. news service IRIN reports that hundreds of people have died from exposure.
The IRC has been working in Pakistan for 20 years, providing emergency and long-term aid for Afghan refugees. In recent months, the IRC has expanded its emergency programs along the border, to provide clean water, sanitation and shelter.
Conditions are just as dismal inside Afghanistan. Nearly 100,000 internally displaced Afghans have fled drought and war-affected areas and settled around the northwestern city of Herat, in search of humanitarian assistance and shelter. Through local staff in Herat, the IRC has been building sanitation facilities, providing emergency items such as blankets, tents and padded insulation and distributing high-protein porridge to malnourished children.
USAID says it plans to provide over $2 million to two other NGOs working in northern Afghanistan to provide primary health care, as well as basic heating, lighting and cooking supplies.
Last month, the World Food Program warned of impending food shortages in Afghanistan and said that as many as one million people could face starvation before the winter ends in April, without additional assistance. The IRC’s Martone says the mortality rate for children is already exceptionally high. “The humanitarian crisis is growing in this region and refugees and the displaced are in urgent need of additional assistance,” he said.