Thousands of people have been displaced and critical health services interrupted, after fighting erupted last weekend between security forces and Taliban fighters in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, the UN humanitarian office has reported.
There are also reports that 200 people have been killed or injured.
According to a flash update issued on Tuesday by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), several districts of Helmand, including areas near provincial capital Lashkargah, and parts of neighbouring Kandahar province have been affected.
The highway between Lashkargah and Kandahar – Afghanistan’s second largest city – has been inaccessible due to the presence of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the update added.
Meanwhile, the UN Assistance Mission in the country (UNAMA) called on the Taliban and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) “to take all feasible measures to protect civilians” .
In a message posted on its official Twitter account, the UN Mission also urged them to provide safe paths for those wishing to leave area.
According to the OCHA humanitarian update, two humanitarian teams have been working in areas of displacement, since Monday, to assess needs and have so far verified about 500 internally displaced persons, some of whom may require immediate food, water and temporary spaces for living.
Local authorities have reported that as many as 35,000 people – some 5,000 households – may have been displaced, while health facilities reported hundreds of casualties.
However, verifying the figures and assessing the situation have been complicated due to disruptions of electricity and telecommunication links in affected areas.
To respond, humanitarians are supplying food and non-food items, while health partners are providing trauma kits for up to 10,000 people for three months, to address trauma needs.
Other partners are mobilising to meet needs following the escalating violence.