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Friday, 28 September, 2001, 06:18 GMT 07:18 UK
UK pledges 11m Pakistan aid
Afghan refugees wait in a line to receive cooking oil at  Jalozai refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan
Pakistan is already hosting 2.2m Afghan refugees
The UK government has pledged an extra 11m to help Pakistan deal with a flood of refugees from neighbouring Afghanistan.

The announcement came hours after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for the international community to provide $584m for the projected needs of up to 7.5m Afghans over the next six months.

The international community must do more to help not only with the immediate refugee situation but also to ensure that poor and vulnerable communities in Pakistan are adequately protected

Clare Short

International Development Secretary Clare Short said: "Pakistan has hosted refugees for many years through a period of conflict and, more recently, drought.

"The current crisis is placing new pressures on an already difficult economic situation.

"The international community must do more to help not only with the immediate refugee situation but also to ensure that poor and vulnerable communities in Pakistan are adequately protected."

The extra money will be targeted mainly at supporting public health services, including the supply of drugs, health equipment, water and sanitation.

An Afghan girl washes her clothes in a stream at a camp for refugees near Peshawar, Pakistan
Sanitation is likely to be one of the worst short-term problems
Ms Short told BBC One's Breakfast programme that she wanted to see the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iran to be open, but added that those countries would need more international help to cope with the millions of Afghan refugees.

There was a need for "equal weight and leadership" to be given to tackling the humanitarian crisis as there was to tackling the terrorists.

Escaping Kabul

On Thursday Prime Minister Tony Blair urged the international community to form a "humanitarian coalition" to help ordinary Afghans caught up in the crisis.

He said: "Our fight is not with Islam or with the people of Afghanistan. Our fight is with those who planned these terrible atrocities and those who harbour them."

Estimates suggest there are already 2.2m Afghan refugees in Pakistan, and a further 1m are expected to arrive in the next few weeks.

There are reports of chaos inside Afghanistan as people rush to escape the capital, Kabul, and other areas they believe might be a target for a US-led military response to the 11 September terrorist attacks.

Pakistan has closed its borders to new Afghan refugees, saying it cannot cope with any more.

But refugee minister Abbas Sarfraz Khan said the authorities would consider reopening the border if there was a humanitarian crisis.

Long-term plan

Afghans are also fleeing a food crisis caused by aid workers being pulled out of Afghanistan, amid fears of US and UK reprisals against the ruling Taleban regime for harbouring prime suspect Osama Bin Laden.

Tony Blair
Tony Blair says the fight is not against ordinary Afghan people

An estimated one in four Afghans was dependent on aid before the attacks.

Ms Short said measures to get food into the country were being discussed "as a matter of urgency".

Ms Short said the UK's aid strategy in Pakistan was meant to help in both the short and long term.

She said: "The UK has been helping Pakistan and Iran with the costs of refugees for many years.

"The strain is increasing and we are therefore increasing our effort. It is important that the refugees are well cared for but we also provide support to poor Pakistanis otherwise tensions grow between locals and refugees.

"Recovering from this current crisis will take time - the UK is firmly committed to working with Pakistan for the long term to reduce poverty."

The aid package brings the total amount given to Pakistan by the UK since the atrocities to 36m, and is in addition to the current 15m annual programme for poverty reduction there.

The assistance will focus mainly on the most affected areas - North West Frontier Province and Balochistan, which are closest to Afghanistan.

The BBC's Emil Petrie
"The UN says Afghanistan is an almost impossible place to work in"
UNHCR's Ron Redmond
"These people are in a desperate situation"
UK International Development Secretary, Clare Short
"We need to open borders and get food into Afghanistan"

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