The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, is using planes, trucks and even donkeys to get vitally needed relief supplies into Afghanistan before the onset of winter when certain parts of the country become inaccessible.
UNICEF has sent four large humanitarian convoys from Peshawar, Pakistan toward four cities inside Afghanistan. The convoys left Tuesday headed for Kabul, Herat, Jalalabad and Kandahar carrying hundreds of tons of blankets, medicines, winter clothing and high-protein food mix for children.
UNICEF spokeswoman, Wivina Belmonte says it is vital that these supplies get to the children before the start of winter. She says winters are bitterly cold. In Herat, for instance, she says temperatures typically go down to 5 degrees centigrade. "Last year, the conditions in Herat were particularly windy and with the wind chill factor, temperatures dropped to minus 25," she said. "Over the course of four or five days at a given point, over 100 children died. It was deadly cold and they just went blue and died. They are barefoot. They have very little just in terms of anything to fight back with. So, they need the medicines, they need the blankets and they certainly need the food."
Another UNICEF convoy is headed for northern Afghanistan carrying 200 tons of clothing, blankets, food, water and other relief supplies. Ms. Belmonte says it is the largest U.N. shipment ever to cross the Shah Shalom pass, a high mountain avenue to Afghanistan, which lies at 4,000 meters. She says the snows already have started and this may be the last chance to get supplies into the area before the route is closed. She says trucks are unable to traverse the treacherously, narrow roads. So, they found other means. "There is a four wheel drive convoy that has been headed with 200 tons of material," said Wivina Belmonte. "All that material is now being shifted onto over 800 donkeys to make the final stretch over the mountain pass and down into the valley below. This is going to take at least two days in terms of transferring and getting the material in."
UNICEF estimates 7.5 million Afghans are in need of international assistance to survive the winter. It says 20 percent are children under the age of five. The agency has appealed for $36 million to help 500,000 Afghan children over the next six months.