TAKHAR -- With the onset of winter, the World Food Programme (WFP) -- in collaboration with relief organisations -- is distributing food and non-food aid to thousands of families in Takhar province, according to local authorities.
The distribution of aid began at the start of November and is ongoing, Samiullah Samimi, a spokesman for Takhar province's Rural Rehabilitation and Development Directorate, told Salaam Times.
Each aid package includes wheat flour, rice, cooking oil, sugar, tea, salt, peas and winter clothing and costs about 4,300 AFN ($50).
"As many as 17,000 families in the capital and seven districts, including Kalafgan, Ishkamish, Chal, Namak Ab, Warsaj, Dasht-e-Qala and Baharak, have received the assistance," Samimi said on November 29.
The assistance was distributed based on a survey conducted by the NGO Shelter for Life in collaboration with the directorate, he said.
The survey "identified more than 60,000 vulnerable families in the capital and 16 districts of Takhar," he added.
"The distribution of relief aid to poor and needy families continues according to the plan, and by the end of the current solar year [in March], all surveyed families will be covered by the United Nations [the WFP]," said Samimi.
"As winter approaches, most internally displaced families ... are facing hardships. We are trying to immediately provide aid to these families," he said.
Families have welcomed the assistance, saying that the onset of winter has led to fears over food shortages and their children’s survival.
Abdul Ahmad, 63, a resident of Taloqan city, the provincial capital, who received the WFP aid package, is a day labourer and the breadwinner for his family.
Ahmad said he spends all day looking for work but often comes home empty handed.
When he does find work, he said has to survive on a day's income of 300–400 AFN ($3.50–$4.60) until his next job.
"The assistance will help us through three months of winter. But I still have to work to make some money because we will need it for other expenses like covering the expenses of treating an illness," said Ahmad.
Zabiullah, a 52-year-old resident of Taloqan and also a day labourer, said that he is happy that he can now feed his children with the aid he received.
"It is very difficult to feed my family with day labourer income. As winter approaches, the prices of food and fuel items are increasing every day," Zabiullah said.
He can find work only once or twice a week, he said.
Although winter has not started yet, the price of 7kg of wood has risen from 90 AFN ($1) to 100 AFN ($1.15) from more than a year ago. The price of 7kg of coal has also gone up, from 35 AFN ($0.40) to 65 AFN ($0.75), he said.
The assistance provided by relief organisations is now more vital than ever before, say Takhar residents.
Poverty, unemployment and food insecurity have caused an unprecedented increase in hunger in Afghanistan, Ezatullah Rahimi, 37, a resident of Taloqan city, told Salaam Times.
"There is a dire need for assistance ... because many people, especially children and the elderly, are at greater risk of starvation and have nothing to survive on," he said.
"The assistance provided by the relief organisations, especially those within the United Nations, is timely and very effective. Most families had nothing to eat and would have faced starvation if such help had not been provided," he said.
Relief organisations should support vulnerable families without exclusion; otherwise, they will face starvation in the upcoming winter, said Rahimi.