AFGHANISTAN: Sharp rise in Marjah displaced prompts concern

22 Feb 2010 11:39:07 GMT

Source: IRIN
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KABUL, 22 February 2010 (IRIN) – The number of those displaced by a major anti-Taliban military operation in Nad Ali District, Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan, has more than doubled over the past four days, according to the provincial authorities.
Over 3,700 families (some 22,000 people) displaced from the Marjah and Nad Ali areas have been registered in Helmand’s capital, Lashkargah, Dawood Ahmadi, a spokesman of the Helmand governor, told IRIN on 22 February. He said most internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been hosted by relatives and friends; a few had sought refuge in abandoned buildings.
The Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) said over 450 families (about 2,700 individuals) had fled to Nawa District and other nearby locations in Helmand since shortly before the 13 February offensive.
“We are trying to do a rapid assessment of IDPs in Nawa and pockets in Nad Ali [District] where people have fled from the conflict,” ARCS provincial head Ahmadullah Ahmadi told IRIN. Some of those arriving in Lashkargah on 20-21 February said they had left their homes in Marjah because of the lack of food.
“All shops and markets are closed and there is no food for people to buy locally,” said one displaced man, Abdul Bari.
“Food prices have skyrocketed in Marjah and Nad Ali and people cannot afford it,” said another man, Ghulam Mohammad.
Prior to the offensive Marjah’s population was estimated at about 80,000. Over 40,000 people are believed to be still there, according to ARCS which has volunteers in Marjah and elsewhere in the province. “People are unable to leave Marjah because of scattered mines and threats by the armed opposition,” said ARCS’s Ahmadi. Aid convoy Backed by NATO, a humanitarian aid convoy with mainly food items for 2,500 families was expected to reach Marjah on 22-23 February, ARCS said. NATO and government officials have vowed to improve services and rebuild quickly in Marjah and Nad Ali once the area is cleared of Taliban fighters, but it is unclear how much longer the fighting may go on. Aid agencies are concerned that if the conflict intensifies many more people could be displaced, placing a severe strain on local families in Lashkargah as well as the government and aid agencies. “Response activities need to be enhanced, coordinated and made more effective in order to prevent a humanitarian crisis of conflict IDPs,” warned ARCS’s Ahmadi. The government has ruled out the establishment of a new IDP camp in Lashkargah, saying it could result in a protracted emergency.
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