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UN Assessing Food Needs in Kabul - 2001-12-02

The U.N. World Food Program is beginning a house-to-house survey in the Afghan capital, Kabul, to assess needs and register people for food aid. The WFP says food distribution to hundreds of thousands of needy people will start once the survey is completed.

The World Food Program has hired 3,600 Afghan workers to carry out the week-long survey in Kabul. WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume says about 2,400 women are among the new recruits. "These women right now ... have been hired to go door by door, go inside, check what are the needs, register the people, give the registered [individuals] cards so they can come and pick up food," she said.

The most unusual aspect of this project is the participation of women. When the Taleban was in command, women were not allowed to work. Ms. Berthiaume says this prohibition created great problems, making it impossible on many occasions for the UN agency to distribute food to the most needy.

Once the registration process is complete, she says, the WFP will announce the distribution places where families can go to pick up 50 kilograms of wheat. This supply is enough for one month.

She says the WFP plans to distribute food to more than one million people in Kabul. She notes the Afghan capital is one of the places in the country where UN workers are able to distribute food without putting themselves at risk.

Unfortunately, she adds, the dangerous security situation in other parts of the country is hampering the delivery of food to many needy people. "As far as security is concerned, obviously it is very difficult and WFP will not bring food into areas where there is no relief worker, either WFP or NGOs," she said. "We will not do it because we would be too scared that the food could be looted. Security is difficult. There are no-go places."

Ms. Berthiaume says the WFP is trying to feed 17-thousand very vulnerable people in camps close to Spin Boldak, southeast of Kandahar, but security concerns are making this very difficult.

She says other no-go areas include Herat, in western Afghanistan, and the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.