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The BBC's Richard Lister
"Washington says Afghanistan is on the verge of a widespread famine"
 real 28k

Thursday, 17 May, 2001, 23:03 GMT 00:03 UK
US announces Afghan aid package
Afghan child refugee in Jalozai camp, Pakistan
Special foods will be sent to treat malnourished children
The United States has announced a $43m aid package for Afghanistan, which Washington says is on the verge of a widespread famine.

The humanitarian assistance will come in the form of food, shelter and health programmes.

Our aid bypasses the Taleban who have done little to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people, and indeed, have done much to exacerbate it

Colin Powell
US Secretary of State Colin Powell said the aid would bypass the governing Taleban, who he said had made the situation worse.

Nearly four million people are at risk of starvation from the three-year-old drought that has been exacerbated by Afghanistan's long-running civil war, he said.

About a quarter of the money will be spent on shelters and health care for refugees inside Afghanistan, as well as seeds and tools for those in less badly affected areas.

The aid package includes 65,000 tonnes of wheat, as well as special foods for treating malnourished children and other help.

Reluctant donor

Mr Powell said the aid would be distributed by United Nations agencies and independent relief organisations, because of the sanctions against the Taleban regime. He urged other countries to increase their assistance too.

Colin Powell
Powell: "Without action, tragedy is certain to follow"
"If the international community does not take immediate action, countless deaths and terrible tragedy are certain to follow," he told reporters.

Mr Powell said the US would announce more humanitarian aid for Afghan refugees in the near future.

"We will continue to look for ways to provide more assistance for Afghans, including those farmers who have felt the impact of the ban on poppy cultivation, a decision by the Taleban that we welcome," he added.

The United States is the largest single donor of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan despite not recognising the legitimacy of the country's rulers.

More than 700,000 Afghans have left their homes since the middle of last year because of the drought, with many of them fleeing to Iran and Pakistan.

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See also:

17 May 01 | South Asia
'Liberty' for Afghan women
15 May 01 | South Asia
Afghans dread approaching conflict
22 Feb 01 | South Asia
Afghan refugees face bleak future
16 Feb 01 | South Asia
UN warns of Afghan catastrophe
20 Dec 00 | South Asia
UN imposes tough sanctions on Taleban
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