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UN Says Rise in Afghan Attacks Threatens Winter Food Supplies

The United Nations says 34 aid workers have died this year in Afghanistan - part of a surge in violence that threatens vital food deliveries before the arrival of winter. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad.

In recent years Afghanistan's harsh winter has also brought a welcome lull in fighting. But this year, aid workers say the intensity of the violence is preventing them from helping millions of people to prepare for the cold.

The United Nations says so far this year more than 34 aid workers have died and 76 have been abducted in Afghanistan. U.N. spokesman Tom Koenigs says the attacks against aid workers endanger the four million Afghans who rely on food assistance.

"This is a matter of great concern," he said. "Reaching the people is not a political issue, it is a humanitarian priority."

At a news conference Monday in Kabul, Koenigs appealed to the militants, telling them that attacks on aid workers harm Afghanistan's most vulnerable communities. He stressed that aid workers help all Afghans regardless of what side of the conflict they are on.

The World Food Program's Rick Corsino says aid workers have about six weeks to deliver winter food supplies before some roads become impassable. But he says the rise in attacks against WFP vehicles makes the delivery timetable difficult.

"In all of 2006, we had five incidents against WFP vehicles," he said. "So far, 10 months this year, we've had 30."

Corsino says the organization has had about one thousand tons of food stolen this year. Despite the loss, he says workers have stockpiled enough for the winter. The problem is delivering the food to people who need it.

In some areas, he says, particularly in the south and west of the country, key roads have become too dangerous to drive on. In the past six weeks, all food deliveries have been suspended along the main road between Kandahar and Herat.