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UN Aids Afghan Refugees - 2001-10-23

U.N. relief agencies say they are trying to provide emergency aid to Afghan refugees fleeing the southern city of Kandahar and massing at the Chaman border crossing into Pakistan. The U.N. groups say as many as 15,000 Afghans have arrived in the area, most of them stuck in the so-called no-man's land area between the two countries.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR says it is working feverishly to help receive refugees at the Chaman border crossing, a dusty and desolate area.

UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski says a temporary staging site in Pakistan, two kilometers from the border, is designed to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable. "We are trying to do two things: One is to prepare a site for particularly vulnerable people - we call it a staging site - in the vicinity of the Chaman border in the Baluchistan region of Pakistan," said Kris Janowski. "This site will accommodate mostly women and children, and elderly people who cannot walk further or be taken to other sites. At the same time, there is work on two other sites in the area that may accommodate up to 50,000 people."

The U.N. children's agency says it has a four-person medical team at the Chaman border crossing, working with Afghan volunteers to distribute relief supplies in the no-man's land.

UNICEF spokeswoman Wivina Belmonte says the group gave sweaters, water, and bread to children and their families sleeping on the barren ground. "What we are seeing in Chaman is a snapshot of the hundreds and hundreds of children we are not getting to and we can not see," she said. "So, for every child that we do see, we try to take their condition, and try to assess what their condition is, and who can not be on the move for several days and who is not getting any aid."

Ms. Belmonte says UNICEF is pressing ahead with its aid distribution within Afghanistan for the coming winter. Truck conveys of food, water, and blankets continue to ply Afghanistan's roads.