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Sunday, 30 September, 2001, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
UN aid heads for Kabul
A WFP truck in Peshawar
The World Food Programme is taking supplies to Kabul
A convoy from the World Food Programme is heading towards Kabul, the first time the United Nations has sent supplies to Taleban-held areas since the suicide attacks on America.

It follows the arrival on Saturday in the Afghan capital of an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) truck loaded with medical supplies.

The WFP says that if the first convoy gets through, others will follow.

Quetta warehouse
Getting enough aid to the people who need it is a huge task
The UN has warned of a major humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries as tens of thousands of refugees flee civil war, drought and the threat of US attacks.

More aid from UN agencies is on its way.

An emergency flight from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) with supplies for Afghan refugees has arrived in Quetta, Pakistan - the first since the 11 September attacks on Washington and New York that killed more than 6,000 people.

It carried enough plastic sheeting to provide shelter for 50,000 refugees.

Prime suspect

On Saturday, a Unicef convoy left Peshawar in Pakistan with 200 tonnes of food and warm clothing for people living in areas held by the opposition Northern Alliance.

Afghans are fleeing because the US has identified Saudi-born militant Osama Bin Laden, who has been living in Afghanistan under the protection of the Taleban regime, as its prime suspect for the attacks.

It's going to be tough, but we are given very little choice

UNHCR engineer
Aid workers expect up to a million Afghans to try to cross the border into Pakistan, but Western leaders have said that, if possible, aid should be delivered within Afghanistan.

The World Food Programme has decided not to wait for security guarantees from the Taleban.

It says it is working on the basis that the Taleban authorities will be able to maintain law and order in areas under their control.

Click here for map of refugee movements

The UNHCR says that it plans to start work on refugee camps on the Pakistan border on Tuesday.

More than 100 possible sites have been proposed by the Pakistani authorities, but most of them are in tribal areas, where security is problematic.

Another major difficulty is water, with only five sites having a good local supply. In all cases, the UNHCR says it will have to bring water in by lorry.
Refugee children pouring water in Jangabad
Water is a major problem at most of the potential refugee camps

"It's going to be tough, but we are given very little choice," said UNHCR engineer Ray Olive.

"That is what the Pakistani Government basically has given us and so we have to make the best of what we are given."

Pakistan has closed its border to new arrivals and the UNHCR has warned that Afghans left inside their country face severe hardship.

About 50,000 refugees have flooded into Pakistan in the last two weeks.

Pakistan and Iran are already home to more than 3.5 million Afghans - the largest refugee group in the world.

Relief agencies say the number of Afghans in need of food and shelter in Afghanistan and bordering countries has risen from 5.5 million to 7.5 million.

Children in danger

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appealed for $584m to prevent Afghan refugees starving.

Unicef said it needed at least $35m for immediate aid.

"We are talking about millions of children who simply will not make it through the winter without humanitarian relief," said David Bull, executive director of Unicef UK.

UN officials said the United States had promised to provide enough wheat to feed a million people for a year.

On Friday, President George W Bush allocated $25m to help aid agencies supply Afghans fleeing a US attack.

France is also preparing a humanitarian aid plan for Afghanistan.

Click here to return

The BBC's Ian Pannell
reports on the exodus out of Jalalabad in East Afghanistan
Peter Kessler, Spokesman for the UNHCR
"It is important that we build up adequate supplies in Pakistan"
See also:

30 Sep 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Afghanistan's refugees
27 Sep 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Afghanistan's future
27 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Blair calls for aid alliance
27 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghans brace for US strike
11 Jan 01 | South Asia
Afghan refugees' unending plight
22 Sep 01 | South Asia
Pakistan's fear of refugee flood
25 Sep 01 | South Asia
Pakistan warns of Afghan instability
25 Sep 01 | South Asia
The wild border town of Quetta
26 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghans place hopes in UN
29 Sep 01 | Americas
UN backs anti-terrorism moves
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