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UN: Relief Efforts in Afghanistan Making Progress - 2002-01-08


U.N. officials in Geneva say the organization's relief effort in Afghanistan is making progress, but they acknowledge some parts of the country are still off-limits because of concerns about security.

The International Organization for Migration says Afghans in the western region of the country continue to pour into the city of Herat. IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy says a camp for the displaced, located just outside the city is caring for about 180,000 people, most of them people from rural areas who were no longer able to survive in the winter months on their own. "People are destitute in the rural areas and therefore they are making the trek to Herat," he said. "It's difficult because these people have not got much already back on their farms and obviously they sell quite a lot of their belongings or whatever they have left to get to Herat. So people arrive in Herat very destitute."

World Food Program spokeswoman Christiane Bertiaume says the agency has enough food in the country to feed six million people, but she says the agency won't go into some areas, such as those in the south near Kandahar, because they are still too dangerous. "We have sent in December a record figure of 180,000 tons of food inside the country, which is a really a huge amount of food," she said. "So we have the food, we have the trucks, we have the staff. The problem is access in certain areas."

The U.N. refugee agency says some 3,000 Afghans who fled the Kandahar region are stuck in a strip of no-man's land separating Afghanistan from Pakistan near the Chaman border crossing. The agency is trying to persuade Pakistan to allow these people into refugee camps in order to receive aid.

Meanwhile, the U.N. children's agency, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization have extended their immunization campaign against measles beyond the Afghan capital, Kabul, to the country's northeast and central regions.

UNICEF spokeswoman Wivina Belmonte says measles is a big killer in Afghanistan, accounting for 40 percent of childhood deaths. She says that it is crucial that the vaccinations against measles be given at this time of year. "The timing of the immunization campaign is particularly important right now because this is the epidemic period for measles which sort of runs from November to March," said Ms. Belmonte. "The immunization campaign will help prevent over 35,000 vaccine preventable child deaths this year."

Ms. Belmonte says, in the Kabul area alone, the U.N. has already immunized more than a quarter of a million children under the age of five against measles. The U.N.'s goal is to vaccinate nine million children between the ages of six months and 12 years.

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