The situation in Kandahar, Afghanistan is both hopeful and dire. That was the assessment of Mercy Corps Information Officer Scott Heidler in a phone interview conducted today a day after he returned to Quetta, Pakistan after visiting the southern Afghan city where Mercy Corps has re-established its office.
“The feeling on the street was quite hopeful,” Heidler said. “The bazaars and fruit stands are open and quite a number of people seemed to be trying to get on with life.”
At the same time, years of conflict have left the citizens in the city in need of immediate assistance.
“In Kandahar City the need is pretty great right now, especially for food and non-food items – blankets, tents, jerry cans for water and cooking,” Heidler said.
Mercy Corps recently began distributing non-food item kits in Kandahar, the first such distribution since the current conflict in the region began. Heidler said that 2,000 more kits are expected to be distributed before December 31.
Additionally, Mercy Corps has performed a needs assessment in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan which showed the area’s residents in desperate need of aid.
“We surveyed family representatives for about 10,000 people in total and found out that about 60-percent don’t have any kind of shelter at all,” Heidler said. “We are working to quickly establish food pipelines and non-food items so that we can distribute them to those in dire need in Helmand.”
Heilder said that Mercy Corps is also distributing 260 metric tons of World Food Program wheat grain to Reg and Shorowak, two southern districts of Kandahar province. The wheat will provide a food supplement for nearly 10,000 people in these highly vulnerable, remote areas.
Mercy Corps has worked in Kandahar for the past ten years. Its office was taken over and damaged by the Taliban in October. This week, Mercy Corps was the first international non-governmental agency to re-establish an expatriate presence in Kandahar City.