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Afghanistan Aid Efforts Become More Difficult - 2001-09-24


International aid groups say they are facing increasing difficulties in continuing their humanitarian operations in Afghanistan. All the aid groups withdrew their foreign workers from the country after the terrorist attacks in the United States. All humanitarian operations inside Afghanistan are now being run by local Afghan employees who are becoming ever more overburdened.

The spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Antonella Notari, says 1,000 local workers are continuing to run medical programs throughout the country. She says they are distributing medical and other supplies to hospitals and clinics to care for landmine victims and to prepare for potential war wounded, but she says the Red Cross is concerned that its medical and surgical supplies will run out.

"We have some stocks inside the country," she explained, "but we are extremely preoccupied that if we cannot bring in more stocks into Afghanistan that the stocks will run out very shortly. When we left, we had three to four weeks stocks left to run the usual programs. As you know, we have now reports already that military operations are ongoing between the Northern Alliance and the Taleban forces."

Ms. Notari says the Red Cross fears it might not have enough medical and other relief supplies on hand to help those who might be wounded in the fighting, or to help the growing number of displaced people massing near the borders with Pakistan and Iran.

She says the distribution of goods also is a growing problem. "It is becoming extremely difficult for our staff to hire trucks and to get trucks to move materials around," she said. "I know that it is making the assistance program in Kabul difficult since in Kabul, we were planning to hand over all our food stocks to the bakeries, to the local bakeries so there could be food distribution programs for the civilian population in Kabul."

Another aid agency, the World Food Program, says it no longer has enough supplies to feed all the four million people the organization used to feed. Other aid agencies, such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization, also have been forced to reduce their aid programs.

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