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UN Official:  Lack of Aid Could Plunge Afghanistan Back Into Chaos - 2002-12-19

The head of United Nations refugee operations in Afghanistan has warned that unless the international community follows through on promises of aid, the country is in danger of falling back into chaos.

The U.N. refugee agency's top official in Afghanistan, Filippo Grandi, has many worries. He said he is worried about continued fighting among Afghan warlords, especially in the northwestern and southeastern parts of the country.

In addition, Mr. Grandi said Afghanistan desperately needs international assistance to rebuild its economy, roads, schools and hospitals. "If there is no money going into the large development programs, then nothing will be sustainable of what we have done the first year to basically stabilize the situation," he said. "The big challenge will be to run at the same time next year in 2003 development programs and continuing emergency programs because this is not finished."

The U.N. refugee official agrees that problems arising from drought, homelessness and bad health will have to continue to be addressed. But he said that, if Afghanistan is going to have a future, work on rebuilding the country cannot be postponed.

Mr. Grandi said he also is concerned that, in the event of a military campaign to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Afghanistan will suffer. "I am just worried that resources will be taken away from the Afghanistan reconstruction," he said. "And, I think that the world should remain focused, whatever happens, on the reconstruction of Afghanistan."

The refugee official said re-building Afghanistan will not only help the country. He said it will aid security and stability in all the countries that surround Afghanistan.