[Hpn] Afghanistan - UN to Call for Halt in Bombing - 21 Oct 2001 - (fwd)

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Mon, 22 Oct 2001 00:07:37 -0700 (PDT)

Published on Sunday, October 21, 2001 in the Observer of London

      UN Set to Appeal for Halt in the Bombing
      by Jason Burke in Peshawar
      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

      '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

      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 Program has calculated that 52,000 tons of wheat must
be distributed in Afghanistan each month to stave off mass starvation.
Since the aid program was restarted - on 25 September - only 20,000 tons
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

      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 WFP.

      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 Kandahar.

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

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001


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