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UNICEF Sends Relief Convoy from Iran to Afghanistan - 2001-10-09

The U.N. Children's Fund is sending a convoy of relief supplies from Iran to Herat, Afghanistan. UNICEF says it has stopped sending supplies from Pakistan into Afghanistan until the security situation improves.

Until now, many of the U.S. military strikes have been at targets near the Pakistan border, making the area out of bounds for U.N. aid agencies. But Herat, in western Afghanistan, is close to the Iranian border and in an area where no strikes have taken place, so UNICEF is sending some desperately needed supplies into the city.

UNICEF spokeswoman Wivina Belmonte said seven trucks will make the two-hour journey from the Iranian border to Herat. She said they are loaded with 30 tons of emergency supplies, including health kits, water purification tablets and blankets. "UNICEF will use every route, every avenue open to us to get supplies inside Afghanistan to those who need them," she said, pointing out that every day counts. "As it gets closer to winter, the needs become more and more urgent. We know the catastrophic effects of winter on children and we have to be prepared inside Afghanistan."

Ms. Belmonte said three UNICEF trucks filled with emergency supplies also are traveling from Turkmenistan to Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.

On Monday, another U.N. agency, the World Food Program, temporarily suspended its cross-border aid convoys into Afghanistan. The agency says the suspension is likely to last as long as military strikes continue. But it says food that reached Afghanistan before the strikes began is being distributed.

The food agency says it has 18,000 tons of food stockpiled within the country, which it says is enough to meet the needs of three million people for one month.

But the WFP estimates six million people in Afghanistan are in need of food.