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UNHCR Resumes Aid to Afghan Refugees - 2001-10-10


The United Nations refugee agency says it is resuming shipments of humanitarian aid from Europe to Afghan refugees. The airlifts had been stopped earlier this month.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says its aid deliveries to the region will resume on Thursday, when the first of 10 planned flights leaves Denmark for Pakistan.

UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski says the planes will carry 10,000 plastic sheets, blankets and other necessary supplies destined for Peshawar and Quetta. They are two key sites in Pakistan where the refugee agency is stockpiling humanitarian goods in anticipation of a possible influx of thousands of Afghan refugees. "Where we are facing problems is in our effort to organize possible campsites where we would have to send our own staff engineers, dig for water, try to build an access road," said Kris Janowski. "This kind of work is on hold and that's quite alarming because we have very little time. We may be seeing a lot of people arriving within the next weeks or days and unless we are able to prepare for these people, they are going to face enormous hardship in this very barren border zone between Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Mr. Janowski says the refugee agency is making similar preparations in Iran, which also shares a border with Afghanistan. But he adds that so far most of the displacement of Afghan refugees seems to be within Afghanistan itself. He offered several reasons to explain why the refugees have not reached the borders. "These people may be held back by the Taleban," he said. "There is also a great likelihood that these people simply do not have the fuel, transportation or money to pay people to guide them through the mountains. For them, it may be cheaper and less complicated to try to hide somewhere in the neighboring area than to hit the road and try to make it all the way to Iran and Pakistan."

Meanwhile, the World Food Program says it has resumed its food convoys into Afghanistan. On Wednesday, the U.N. food agency said 40 trucks carrying 1,000 tons of food left Pakistan for Kabul. The agency spokeswoman says another truck convoy carrying an equal amount of food is expected to set off soon from Turkmenistan for northern Afghanistan.

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