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The BBC's Susannah Price in Islamabad
"The Government of Pakistan is sounding alarm bells about the possible knock-on effects of sanctions"
 real 28k

Andrew Wilder, Save the Children Fund, Islamabad
"A lot of the programmes for refugees have been cut"
 real 28k

Friday, 22 December, 2000, 12:39 GMT
UN funding hole threatens refugees
Afghan refugees in Islamabad
Official predict 1 million people could starve to death
The United Nations refugee agency has said it needs $44.5 million to help refugees in south-west Asia.

A spokesman said the agency was concerned about four million people, 2.6 million of whom were Afghans.

Refugees in South West Asia
4 million displaced people out of 22.3 million worldwide
3.1 million refugees
600,000 recently returned refugees
300,000 internally displaced
2.6 million Afghans in Iran and Pakistan
UNHCR funding needs
$8.5 million for Afghanistan
$17.6 million for Iran
$18.3 million for Pakistan
He added that conditions in camps in Afghanistan were poor due to lack of funding, but thousands of people continued to arrive, fleeing regions ravaged by war and drought.

They have also been arriving in Iran and Pakistan.

Pakistan warned on Thursday that new United Nations sanctions on Afghanistan's Taleban leadership will lead to a further flood of refugees crossing the border.

The new sanctions, which were jointly proposed by the United States and Russia, will come into effect in a month's time, if the Taleban do not hand over the Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden and close what the UN describes as terrorist training camps.

People still on the move

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said 4,600 people arrived in the western Afghan city of Herat last week alone.

"In the newest and largest camp, Maslagh, new arrivals had to sleep out in the open air despite freezing temperatures," the UNHCR said.

It said there are shortfalls of all non-food items, including blankets, tents and quilts.

It also said the World Food Programme (WFP) would run out of food in April 2001 if further pledges were not made.

The WFP has estimated that up to one million Afghans could starve to death this winter.

Drugs programme threatened

The head of the UN Drug Control Programme in Pakistan and Afghanistan has said the UN sanctions have come at "a very bad time" for efforts to eradicate Afghanistan's opium crop.

New sanctions
Impose arms embargo on the Taleban
Tighten existing flight embargo
Restrict sale of chemicals used to make heroin from poppies - one of the country's most profitable crops
Close Afghan Ariana Airlines offices abroad
Bernard Frahi told the French news agency that the sanctions had "complicated our dialogue with the Taleban".

He said that the sanctions, which ban the import of chemicals used to convert opium into heroin, had punished the Taleban for drug trafficking, despite efforts by the leaders to stamp out opium production.

But he said he had received assurances from the Taleban that the UNDCP work could continue.

Aid workers

Meanwhile the International Committee of the Red Cross has said it will keep all its staff in Afghanistan and pursue normal operations.

The ICRC said it had "received assurances from the [Taleban] authorities that all necessary measures would be taken to guarantee the safety of staff and operations".

The UN withdrew its international staff earlier this week amid fears of reprisals after the decision to impose sanctions.

When sanctions were imposed last year, UN offices in Afghanistan were ransacked.

UN aid workers, however, are now hopeful they will soon be able to return to Afghanistan, as the situation there appears to be calm.

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See also:

22 Dec 00 | Americas
US 'agrees UN payment cuts'
21 Dec 00 | South Asia
Pakistan warns of Afghan exodus
12 Dec 00 | South Asia
UN staff leaving Afghanistan
27 Oct 00 | South Asia
UN agency pleads for Afghan aid
20 Dec 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
20 Dec 00 | South Asia
Who is Osama bin Laden?
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