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UN: Afghans Still Lack Food, Security - 2002-01-11

Though the Taleban rulers have been put out of power and the fighting in Afghanistan has subsided, United Nations aid agencies say thousands of Afghans are still fleeing their homes.

There are already over 100,000 Afghan refugees in camps in Pakistan, and the United Nation's refugee agency says more want to get in.

UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski says a combination of a lack of food and fear for their lives has sent thousands of Afghans fleeing from the Kandahar area to the Pakistan border.

"We now have 7,000 people stuck in no man's land trying to get into Pakistan, and the main reason these people are leaving is the lack of aid. They are also speaking of banditry, attacks and general insecurity in that part of the country," he said.

The World Food Program has said it has been impossible to provide aid to the Kandahar province for many weeks because of fighting there.

Other parts of the country are also suffering from a lack of food. The agency says it is planning to send food by helicopter to the mountainous Bonawash region in northern Afghanistan, where people have reportedly been eating grass to survive.

WFP spokeswoman Christiane Bertiaume said the agency hopes to send helicopters to other difficult-to-reach places in Afghanistan where fighting has stopped. But she said the agency only uses helicopters when it has no alternative.

"The problem is that you cannot bring as much by helicopters as by road or even by donkey. But if the needs are very important we will do our best to respond to them as quickly as possible," she said.

Ms. Bertiaume said the WFP is also looking into reports of humanitarian aid being looted in eastern Afghanistan, around the city of Jalalabad. She said the agency is working to ensure that all its food deliveries get to people in need, not looters.