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Red Cross, Red Crescent: Afghanistan Devastated by War and Drought - 2002-02-08

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says it is alarmed by the shocking level of poverty it has found in western Afghanistan.

The Red Cross says it sent a team recently to the western Afghan provinces of Herat and Faryab to assess the condition of people living there.

They found a land devastated by war and drought. According to Red Cross official Wendy Darby, who was part of the team that went to Afghanistan, many people in the region are close to starvation.

"Children and adults were grubbing for food in many, many places," said Ms. Darby. "Many of the children we saw were without shoes. I can tell you, it was very cold, definitely in the evening. Some of them with only one layer of clothing. Some with visible sores and skin discolorations."

Ms. Darby noted that some parents are so poor they are offering daughters as young as ten-year-old in marriage in exchange for bags of flour.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has issued an appeal for $25 million to aid Afghans. Ms. Darby says the money would help provide health services, clothing and tools and seeds so people can begin planting again.

Ms. Darby says in addition to providing food and agricultural supplies to western Afghanistan, the Red Cross is working to improve health and sanitation facilities to fight diseases like diarrhea and bronchitis.