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Humanitarian Conditions Worsen in Afghanistan

United Nations officials are worried about the growing desperation of both refugees from Afghanistan and of those Afghans who remain in their own country without food. The humanitarian situation was a disaster before September 11 but U.N. officials say fears of war have now driven an additional 1.5 million Afghans to attempt to flee the country. Pakistan has re-opened a border area and the government of Iran is assessing new sites for refugee camps.

Inside Afghanistan, much food aid has been reported stolen and the World Food Program estimates that hundreds of thousands of Afghans may exhaust their food supplies within a week. The Food Program says it will try to resume shipments into Afghanistan but transportation is extremely difficult. The shipments were suspended on September 12.

Fred Eckhard, the chief spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, quoted him as saying the world community must do everything possible to save the lives of innocent Afghans. "Innocent civilians should not be punished for the actions of their government," says Mr. Eckhard. "The world is united against terrorism. Let it be equally united in protecting and assisting the innocent victims of emergencies and disasters."

Mr. Eckhard said talks about communications between a U.N. official and a Taleban representative in Pakistan were inconclusive. The Taleban have forbidden U.N. workers inside Afghanistan from using satellite telephones, making communications extremely difficult.