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UN Speeding Food to Afghanistan - 2001-10-14

United Nations aid agencies are speeding up the delivery of food and other relief supplies to Afghanistan. The agencies say they are racing against time to get supplies in position before the onset of winter in mid-November.

Over the past two weeks, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says it has managed to deliver enough relief supplies to meet the immediate needs of more than one million children and women inside Afghanistan.

UNICEF Spokeswoman Wivina Belmonte says the agency has succeeded in doing this despite enormous logistical hurdles. "There are several reasons for the urgency," she said, "among them is that clock that is ticking its way to winter and the devastating impact of that on children and women. But it is also a question of the impact of winter on our supply routes. In terms of our supply routes, at some point when winter truly hits, we lose access to certain areas."

United Nations relief convoys are using various routes to reach different parts of Afghanistan. Over the past few days, UNICEF has sent trucks from Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan into Afghanistan. These trucks have gone to such key Afghan cities as Kabul, Kandahar, and Herat. UNICEF is even using 800 donkeys to traverse a treacherous mountain pass to bring desperately-needed supplies to people in the northern Afghan city of Faizabad. The shipments of goods include tens of thousands of blankets, winter clothing for women and children, therapeutic food for malnourished children and medical supplies.

The U.N.'s World Food Program also is speeding up the delivery of food to millions of Afghans trapped inside the country. WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume says in the next few days the agency will have brought in 12,000 tons of food, enough to feed 3.4 million people for one week, but far short of the agency's target.

"Our target is 52,000 tons of food per month for more than six million people inside the country. We need to pre-position and stockpile food for the highlands in the center of Afghanistan where there are 100,000 families that need the food and who would be cut off during winter," she said.

Ms. Berthiaume says winter arrives very quickly in Afghanistan. By mid-November, she says heavy snowfalls will cut off many roads and passes. Unless food, winterized tents and warm clothing are brought into Afghanistan in time, she says many people will starve or freeze to death.