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WFP Says 7 Million Afghans Lack Food - 2001-10-04

The World Food Program has appealed for donors to provide food to the hunger-stricken population of Afghanistan. The U.N. agency estimates that food will be required for more than 7 million people.

The Rome-based World Food Program is the world's largest food aid agency. On Thursday, its executive director, Catherine Bertini, asked the international community to respond generously to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. "We must move with speed and determination because millions of lives are at stake," she said. "This week we have seen an important resumption beginning on Saturday for overland food transport and we must build on this if we are to avoid a humanitarian disaster. I appeal to the international community and to people around the world to be as supportive and as generous as possible."

Ms. Bertini said 2,500 tons of food have been sent so far, but the goal is to send 52,000 tons into the country each month. "This is a humanitarian, a major humanitarian, effort and without the support from the international community we will not be able to succeed," said Ms. Bertini. "There has been civil strife for many years, there is desperate poverty, and there is a devastating drought. "

Ms. Bertini said that at present there are 300 Afghan staff members in charge of distributing the food. The World Food Program also plans airdrops as the winter sets in. So far, she said, contacts are being maintained with Taleban officials to ensure that food reaches the needy.