KUNDUZ -- Several United Nations (UN) agencies and other humanitarian organisations have provided cash assistance, food aid and employment opportunities to 4,000 displaced families in Mazar-e-Sharif, according to local authorities.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are among the agencies involved in the humanitarian intervention.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), French non-governmental organisation (NGO) Agency for Technical Co-operation and Development (ACTED), Czech NGO People in Need (PIN) and London-based Save the Children have also assisted.
The UN and other humanitarian organisations provided aid for vulnerable families in Balkh province between September 2021 and March 2022, said Juma Khan Mahrez, director of the Balkh Refugees and Repatriations Department.
"Thousands of displaced and conflict-affected families who have taken refuge in Mazar-e-Sharif city from the neighbouring provinces and districts around Balkh have received humanitarian assistance," he said.
"We have assisted some 4,000 of the neediest and most vulnerable families," he said. "The assistance included flour, rice, cooking oil, beans, sugar, tea, salt, chickpeas, utensils and cash."
"UNHCR, ACTED and NRC have distributed $100 to $500 in cash assistance to each household, and some other organisations have made food and non-food available to those in need," he said.
"Unfortunately, the conflict and insecurity have had a devastating impact on our people," Mahrez said. "Many displaced families are living in poverty, and we are trying to attract and co-ordinate the distribution of more aid to these families."
Extremely difficult times
More than 20,000 displaced families are living in tents in Balkh province. Hunger, unemployment, and lack of shelter, drinking water or access to education and medical care are their most pressing challenges.
The displaced families in Mazar-e-Sharif worry that their situation will worsen as the temperature starts to rise in the summer and as economic challenges show little sign of receding.
"My house was destroyed during the fighting last August, and I was forced to take refuge in Hazrat-e-Bilal camp in Mazar-e-Sharif," said Mohammad Asghar, 45, originally from Kohi village in Maimana city, Faryab province.
"I have been living with seven members of my family in this camp for almost eight months," he said. "I cannot rebuild my house and am currently going through difficult times in my life."
"We receive cash and food every month, and that helps our children to stay alive," Asghar said. "We are eager to return home if the government and aid organisations provide the support."
"The conflict has ruined everything, and we are left with nothing," said Khanum Zargul, 36, a resident of Chemtal district, Balkh province.
"My husband was martyred when a mortar hit our home. I had no other option but to take refuge in this camp in Mazar-e-Sharif city," she said. "I have been living here for seven months."
Zargul said she has regularly received food and non-food assistance provided by the humanitarian organisations, but she remains very concerned about the future of her children, who have been deprived of continuing their education.
Alleviating hunger and poverty
Afghan business owners and aid organisations are also doing their part to alleviate the crisis by distributing humanitarian aid to their compatriots.
On April 11, Bashir Navid Group, a Mazar-e-Sharif-based charity, distributed tents, flour and cooking oil to 500 displaced families.
The organisation provided immediate assistance after learning that these families have been living in the most difficult conditions and were in dire need of help, said Mujtaba Usmani, a representative of the charity.
Since August, Bashir Navid Group has distributed food assistance to 20,000 families in Kabul, Parwan, Ghazni, Balkh and several other provinces, he said.
"Among the displaced, there are families who have nothing to eat for survival," he said.
"The assistance provided by the relief organisations has been timely and very effective," said Raizwanullah, 52, a resident of Chahar Bolak district, Balkh province. "Most families did not have anything to eat, and if such assistance was not provided, they would have faced starvation."
"Help is needed now more than ever as many children and the elderly are at higher risk of starvation," he said.
"Hundreds of families live in the Hazrat-e-Bilal camp," he added. "The weather is getting warmer day by day, and we hope they help us return to our homes."