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International Partners Help Afghanistan Keep Warm during Country’s Coldest Winter

Afghanistan has been facing what experts are calling its coldest winter in 30 years. Heavy snowfalls have blocked roads and made rural Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain impassable. Meanwhile, howling winds and temperatures of less than -20 C have resulted in nearly a thousand deaths. Aid efforts are underway but face severe challenges. Afghanistan’s narrow mountain roads and remote population centers make aid distribution difficult. The disruption in lines of supply has increased the occurrence of disease and in some instances has led to starvation. The Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan has reported that 170,000 cases of pneumonia have already been diagnosed and treated this month, a hundred of which proved fatal.

To counter these troubling developments, Afghanistan’s international partners are stepping up their efforts to minimize the impact of the extreme weather. The Red Cross has begun distributing blankets and clothes to Afghan children to fend off the effects of the cold. Additionally, the United Nations’ World Food Program has distributed 2,080 metric tons of food to 31,000 households in Afghanistan

The toll has been especially hard on the tens of thousands of refugees newly returning to Afghanistan. UNHCR is distributing aid to more than 37,000 refugee families. In total, the U.N. has committed 8 million USD in emergency funding to Afghanistan.

Long term recovery efforts will have to focus on economic reconstruction. While a thousand people are estimated to have been killed by the cold and starvation, the 400,000 livestock killed pose a more long-term threat to the lives and livelihood of Afghans. Even after the cold subsides, the threat of economic despair, starvation, and landslides will linger.

Now, as the heavy snowfalls of winter begin to melt, spring flooding becomes a very real threat. In a proactive move to counter this danger, the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development has begun issuing sandbags and other barriers to threatened communities. The World Food Program has also begun stockpiling more supplies in regional distribution centers in an attempt to stave off the effects of hunger and disease that are sure to come with the spring thaw.

Afghanistan’s cold winter may be over, but its affects are still being felt. The partnership between the government of Afghanistan and the international community has been invaluable in turning a humanitarian disaster into a shining example of global cooperation.

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