The United Nations has announced a six-month plan to prepare for an expected humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan and neighboring countries.
U.N. relief officials say the terror attacks on the United States and the resulting speculation about military action in Afghanistan has caused the humanitarian situation to become truly desperate. The number of Afghans who require international aid for survival is expected to rise from five million to 7.4 million.
Many of them have fled to neighboring countries but large numbers are displaced within Afghanistan where U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says it is now extremely difficult to ship food and other relief supplies. "Some food is getting in but for many parts of the country we do not have access or security for our staff," he said. "Of course, as you know, most of our staff has had to leave for security reasons. If it becomes necessary at some stage and if it is deemed to be technically feasible, we may have to consider air drops as well."
The only relief workers now active in Afghanistan are Afghan nationals and the U.N. says their ability to communicate has been severely restricted by the Taleban authorities.
Ambassador Jean Levitte of France, the current president of the U.N. Security Council, told reporters the Taleban leaders are primarily responsible for the humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan. "The fast deterioration of this situation today is basically the result of decisions taken by the Taleban," he said. "The international community is ready and determined to help."
U.N. officials are believed concerned not only with the immediate humanitarian situation but also with the possibility that waves of new Afghan refugees could have a destabilizing effect on neighboring countries.
The total cost of the six-month emergency plan for Afghanistan is almost $600 million.