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UN Relief Convoys Arrive in Afghanistan


United Nations emergency assistance for millions of Afghans inside and outside Afghanistan is gathering pace. U.N. agencies are sending relief convoys into Afghanistan and airlifting tons of supplies into neighboring countries.

The U.N. Refugee Agency says a second emergency airlift carrying nearly 45 tons of blankets and plastic sheets arrived in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Tuesday. The agency reports more UNHCR emergency staff has arrived in Pakistan.

UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski says the agency is building up staff and resources in Pakistan and other countries bordering Afghanistan. He says the agency is sending a team of specialists to northwest Pakistan to begin work on a new camp to house Afghan refugees in the event of a major influx. "It is quite difficult in the northwestern province of Pakistan where we have to construct and plan camps in so-called tribal areas where actually the Pakistani government has no jurisdiction and we basically go to these areas with clearances that are required for each single trip. So, it is quite difficult," he said.

Mr. Janowski says more supplies need to be brought into the area quickly. He says water is a scarce commodity. Consequently, the UNHCR will have to drill deep wells, which he says will be very costly.

The United Nations is planning, for what it calls, a worst case scenario. It says up to 1.5 million refugees might flee Afghanistan into Pakistan and other countries if the United States launches a military strike in the area.

Efforts to get food and other supplies to the millions of people trapped inside Afghanistan also are speeding up. On Tuesday, the World Food Program sent a convoy of trucks carrying 1,000 tons of food to the Afghan capital, Kabul. This is the first transport of food into the country since WFP expatriate staff left Afghanistan September 12. WFP spokeswoman, Christiane Berthiaume says the convoy has encountered no problems. She says no food or trucks have been diverted. "We do not have the usual staff that we have normally on the ground because international staff has been relocated to Islamabad," she said. "Not only ours, but all the U.N. as well as the NGOs they also have been relocated. So, nobody has enough staff on the ground. No, I can not say we are bringing food in Afghanistan with the same guarantees that our food will go to the people in need as we normally had."

Nevertheless, Ms. Berthiaume says 6 million people in Afghanistan are in need of food assistance. She says WFP aims to distribute 50,000 tons of food every month for the next six months.

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