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Afghanistan Rehabiliation and Relief Accelerates Despite Heightened Tension


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Dushanbe, Tajikistan, 5 October 2001 - Against the backdrop of a major humanitarian disaster, heightened by tensions of potential international conflict and a massive refugee crisis, Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) is continuing to move ahead with rehabilitation activities in Afghanistan even as it presses forward with its ongoing relief programme across the country.

Throughout recent days and weeks, despite the looming crisis and the closure of various of Afghanistan's borders, FOCUS has maintained its operations. As a non-denominational emergency relief agency with a strong grassroots presence and a deep experience of the terrain and operational limitations, FOCUS has remained committed to enabling relief for all people in the areas where it operates even as it facilitates rehabilitation. It has during 2001, provided food and other assistance to over 450,000 people in Afghanistan.

"Although the areas in which we work are under the control of different, and often, opposing forces in the current civil conflict," said Aly Mawji, FOCUS Programme Co-ordinator, "I can confirm that by the end of September, we had distributed about 1,400 tonnes of food to approximately 50,000 internally displaced and vulnerable populations." "This food," he warned, "will last for about two months."

To mitigate internal migration in search of food, FOCUS has distributed elite wheat seed and fertiliser to over 3,000 farmers in southern Baghlan and northern Bamyian for winter planting. This seed will be used primarily for multiplication purposes to extend the programme to more farmers. By the end of 2001, FOCUS expects to have provided supplementary nutritional rations on a monthly basis to over 30,000 children. This will be complemented by the establishment of immunisation centres and the provision of treatment for the acutely malnourished under a programme supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

In Badakshan, where almost no other relief organisation has been working, FOCUS has, during this year, distributed over 10,000 tonnes of food, again, primarily to vulnerable populations in high altitude areas dependent upon rain-fed agriculture. Almost all of this food was used to pay labour for building over 1,600 km of irrigation channels, 700 km of roads and the rehabilitation of schools and health clinics. Another 4,000 tonnes of food is already on its way for distribution to vulnerable people in high altitude areas in the province. Approximately 13,000 farmers, from 150 villages in Badakshan have already planted wheat seed obtained through FOCUS's credit programme run by village organisations. FOCUS estimates that, notwithstanding major upheaval, the agricultural programme could produce up to 30,000 tonnes of cereals annually.

Active in Afghanistan since 1996, FOCUS has, over the past two years, increasingly been promoting rehabilitation activities, with a significant agriculture and infrastructure rehabilitation programme in Badakshan, an agriculture programme covering five districts in Baghlan and Bamyian, and water and shelter activities in the province of Balkh.

FOCUS's programmes in Afghanistan remain premised on supporting people in their localities so as to prevent migration and internal displacement. In addition to providing humanitarian assistance, FOCUS has initiated rehabilitation, construction and agricultural activities as soon as local conditions have allowed. As an affiliate of the Aga Khan Development Network, FOCUS hopes to enable as swift a transition as is possible into long-term development initiatives of the type that the Network has already successfully launched in similar high-mountain environments in Tajikistan and Northern Pakistan.

Notes:
Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) is an international emergency response agency that provides relief and support services during and following natural and man-made disasters, primarily in Asia and Africa. FOCUS helps people in need reduce their dependence on humanitarian aid as it facilitates their transition to sustainable self-reliance. FOCUS is affiliated with the Aga Khan Development Network, a group of institutions working to improve opportunities and living conditions, for people of all faiths and origins, in specific regions of the developing world. Underlying the establishment of FOCUS as a non-denominational agency by the Ismaili Muslim community is a history of successful institutional responses to natural and man-made disasters. FOCUS's approach and endeavours are inspired by the traditions of a faith built around an ethic of compassion and care for those most in need.

In addition to providing relief and assistance following landslides, earthquakes, cyclones, floods and disease epidemics, FOCUS has, since it was founded in 1994, undertaken successful resettlement programmes for displaced families and established effective disaster prevention, mitigation and preparation programmes. Areas of the world where FOCUS has been involved include Afghanistan, East Timor, India, Mozambique, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Zanzibar. FOCUS's programmes in Afghanistan have been undertaken in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany as well as other local and international agencies.

For further information, please contact:
Mr. Aly Mawji
Focus Humanitarian Assistance
Dushanbe
Telephone: +992-372-246500/215118
Fax: +992-372-246500
E-mail: fhakrg@atge.automail.com  

Mr. Najmi Kanji
Aga Khan Development Network
London
Telephone: +44.20.8654.6131
Fax: +44.20.8655.1649
E-mail: najmi.kanji@akdn.ch

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