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UN set to appeal for halt in the bombing

Oct 20, 2001 06:36 PM
by MKRamadoss

I am very heartened by the following report. Anyone who has the welfare of our brothers and sisters cannot but support the move.


UN set to appeal for halt in the bombing

War on Terrorism: Observer special
Islam and the West: Observer special

Jason Burke, Peshawar
Sunday October 21, 2001
The Observer

The United Nations is set to issue an unprecedented
appeal to the United States and its coalition allies to
halt the war on Afghanistan and allow time for a huge
relief operation.

UN sources in Pakistan said growing concern over
the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country -
in part, they say, caused by the relentless bombing
campaign - has forced them to take the radical step.
Aid officials estimate that up to 7.5 million Afghans
might be threatened with starvation.

'The situation is completely untenable inside
Afghanistan. We really need to get our point across
here and have to be very bold in doing it. Unless the
[US air] strikes stop, there will be a huge number of
deaths,' one UN source said.

The move will embarrass Clare Short, the International
Development Secretary, who said last week that there
was no 'cause and effect' between the bombing and
the ability of aid agencies to deliver much-needed
food and shelter.

Aid workers yesterday strongly rejected Short's
statements. 'Basically the bombing makes it difficult to
get enough supplies in. It is as simple as that,' an
Islamabad-based aid official told The Observer .

Dominic Nutt, a spokesman for the British charity
Christian Aid, called Short's remarks sickening.
'Needy people are being put at risk by government
spin-doctors who are showing a callous disregard for
life,' he said. 'To say that there is no link is not just
misleading but profoundly dangerous.' Christian Aid
report 600 people have already died in the Dar-e-Suf
region of northern Afghanistan due to starvation,
malnutrition and related diseases.

Other agencies confirmed that the sick, the young and
the old are already dying in refugee camps around the
northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

The World Food Programme has calculated that
52,000 tonnes of wheat must be distributed in
Afghanistan each month to stave off mass starvation.
Since the aid programme was restarted - on 25
September - only 20,000 tonnes have been supplied
and 15,000 distributed. The concern is that the
coming winter will make relief efforts more difficult.
The first snows have already fallen on the Hindu Kush
mountains and the isolated highlands of Hazarajat.

But though the WFP is accelerating the supply of food,
it says it is unlikely to be able to bring in more than
two-thirds of what is required. And it is clear that little
aid is reaching the most remote areas where the need
is greatest.

A new assessment by aid workers on the ground in
Afghanistan will be presented to UN co-ordinators in
Islamabad this week. It shows that the effects of the
three-year drought that has hit Afghanistan are far
worse than previously thought. Areas in the north-east
are of particular concern.

In the western city of Herat food deliveries are barely
keeping up with demand from the 1,000 people a day
who are arriving at refugee camps.

'We are getting a significant amount of food into the
country and we are desperately trying to get it to more
remote areas. The usual distribution networks are
hugely disrupted. At the moment a trickle is getting
through,' said Michael Huggins, a spokesman for the

He said the WFP operation was hampered by a lack
of truck drivers willing to carry food through
Afghanistan because of the bombing raids, high fuel
prices and communication difficulties.

The Taliban have also caused problems for aid
agencies. A series of offices have been looted in
major cities, prompting French agency Médecins
Sans Frontières to shut down its entire Afghan
operation. There have been a number of attempts to
steal vehicles from aid agencies. The Taliban have
also delayed relief convoys by demanding high taxes
on their passage.

Although the expected influx of refugees to Pakistan
has yet to occur, there are signs of larger shifts of
population than before. The last three days have seen
more than 10,000 people cross the border from
Afghanistan around the Taliban stronghold of

Refugees report a breakdown in law and order in
Kandahar. 'It is impossible to live there now,' one said.

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