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UN: Humanitarian Aid to Increase After Installation of Afghan Interim Government - 2001-12-21

United Nations humanitarian organizations said their activities in Afghanistan will increase with the installation of the new interim government. On Saturday, Hamid Karzai will be sworn in as Afghanistan's interim leader at a ceremony in the presidential palace.

U.N. aid representatives in Afghanistan will be attending inaugural ceremonies in Kabul ushering in Hamid Karzai as the head of the six-month interim government. U.N. relief groups said there is much work to be done to get Afghanistan get back on its feet after 23 years of conflict.

The U.N. children's fund, UNICEF, said it will be working with the interim government to re-establish Afghanistan's defunct education system. UNICEF spokeswoman Wivina Belmonte said March 21 marks the official start of what should be Afghanistan's school year. "There is per se no public school system. One of the things that we will be doing is talking to the new authority about what, where, how to help them in setting up a public school system. In the same way, we are dealing with them in the area of health," she said.

The Japanese government recently donated nearly $13 million to UNICEF for polio eradication and health and programs in Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. UNICEF said a portion of the money will also go to improving nutrition in Afghanistan.

Ms. Belmonte said the U.N. will also assist the new interim government to carry out a census of the Afghan population for the first time in some 15 years. "When we are talking about education or talking about the health of children, it is good to have reliable data about how many children we are talking about and what ages they are," she said. The U.N. refugee agency said it already has offices functioning in Kabul, Herat and Mazar-e-Sherif. UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said the organization has devoted much of its energies to Afghan refugees in nearby countries, but it is now starting to build its presence in Afghanistan to help people return home and begin new lives. "UNHCR is in Afghanistan to stay and work with the government on stabilizing the internally displaced population and is also working with all other U.N. agencies. The exact division of labor between the U.N. agencies and how this is going to be organized in a formal sense is not really decided yet. But nonetheless, there will be a huge humanitarian involvement inside the country and eventually in trying to bring back million of people uprooted by the conflict," said Mr. Janowski.

The International Organization for Migration said it has maintained its presence in Afghanistan throughout the recent crisis. It said it will continue to provide internally displaced Afghans with life sustaining basic food and material supplies as long as the need exists.