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UN: Security Problems Continue to Hamper Aid Delivers in Afghanistan - 2001-12-11

Relief agency officials at the United Nations Tuesday welcomed the re-opening of a bridge linking Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. The officials say, with the bridge now open, they will be able deliver supplies more quickly to northern Afghanistan.

But U.N. officials say security problems continue to hamper the delivery of aid to many people in Afghanistan.

Uzbek authorities closed the Friendship Bridge four years ago, after the Taleban came to power in Afghanistan. But with the demise of the Taleban, Uzbekistan has decided to re-open the vital link between the two countries.

Christiane Bertiaume of the World Food Program says the agency will be able to use the bridge to expedite aid shipments to needy Afghans.

"That will help us a lot and will facilitate our job to bring more food from Uzbekistan through the port of Termez and getting into Adatan and Mazar-e-Sharif. And from Mazar-e-Sharif, we could cover much more easily all the north of the country where we estimate that three million people are particularly vulnerable," she said.

The WFP official says, although the agency has used other routes to get food aid into Afghanistan, the Friendship Bridge will greatly facilitate its work.

But officials at another relief agency, the International Migration Organization, say outbreaks of violence have hindered its efforts to distribute supplies. The agency said in western Afghanistan, near Herat, an armed Afghan fired shots into the air and threatened IOM workers, forcing the agency to stop aid delivery to a refugee camp.

IOM spokesman Jean Phillipe Chauzy says such incidents must be stopped. "It is crucial at the moment to continue these activities day in, day out without any interruption," he said.

Meanwhile, the U.N. children's agency and the aid group Oxfam have begun distributing supplies to 3,000 families in the remote central Afghan highlands. Lynn Geldof, of UNICEF, says Afghans in the region, despite the winter weather, are anxious to have their children resume their studies as quickly as possible.

"People are demanding winter schooling for their children. So we are trying to organize that. The race is on," she said.

UNICEF says it is rushing emergency school kits containing notebooks and lessons on numbers and basic reading to the children and their teachers.