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UN Reducing Afghan Aid

United Nations relief agencies say they are cutting back aid to Afghanistan because of a lack of money. The agencies say they fear there will be more suffering in Afghanistan unless donors make good on their promises.

Afghanistan has experienced one of the fastest and biggest repatriation programs in recent years. Nearly 500,000 refugees and more than 150,00 internally displaced people have returned to their homes since the beginning of March.

But U.N. aid agencies say they are running out of money for their programs to help the returning Afghans.

The World Food Program (WFP) says that without more money, it will have no food aid to distribute next month. WFP's Christiane Bertiaume says the agency urgently needs $28 million to purchase 75,000 tons of food through the end of July, which is harvest time in Afghanistan. "We have averted a famine," said Ms. Bertiaume. "We do not want to go back to that."

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says a lack of money has already forced it to stop programs to send internally displaced Afghans back to their homes in the west and north of the country.

IOM spokesman Jean-Philippe Chauzy says transportation costs skyrocketed in the western city of Herat because trucking companies there charge 17 times more than those in other parts of the country.

"Everyday in Herat, we have got about 5,500 people who need [transportation] assistance, and we need those trucks," explained Mr. Chauzy. "Obviously, [supply] and demand, the cartels are imposing extortionate prices and basically this is bleeding us dry. We are spending $4 million a month in Afghanistan, mostly related to IDP [internally displaced people] transportation and resettlements."

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR says it is spending $25 million a month to assist about three million Afghan refugees. Peter Kessler of UNHCR says the agency has a financial shortfall of about $100 million.

"The trips back to Afghanistan must be made sustainable. That requires, of course, relief aid, aid for...the interim authority, and of course long-term development, and it has to happen immediately," said Mr. Kessler. "The interim authority needs, of course, its own structure to be assisted. The relief agencies and the rehabilitation agencies have to be assisted to get in on the ground and get projects going, because people need jobs, people need a future."

U.N. agencies say that without help for Afghans to return home and rebuild their lives, the country could face major security problems in the coming months.