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Monday, 1 October, 2001, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
Food reaches hungry Kabul
A WFP truck in Peshawar
It is the first food aid to be sent since the attacks
The first UN food convoy to be sent to Taleban-held areas of Afghanistan since the 11 September suicide attacks on America has arrived in the capital Kabul.

The trucks from the World Food Programme (WFP) arrived early on Monday, carrying 218 tonnes of wheat for the city's bakeries, a UN official said.

This is a positive sign and we will continue to ship more food into Afghanistan

UN spokesman Khaled Mansour

But people are continuing to flee Kabul for opposition territory, and eyewitnesses at the front line say several hundred are trying to cross each day.

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.

And the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that the thousands of people trying to move around the country were at risk of injury or death from landmines.

Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world, with 725 sq km still littered with mines or unexploded shells.

UN pull-out

International UN staff pulled out of Afghanistan after the terror attacks, hampering the relief effort.

Afghanistan is accused of harbouring the prime suspect behind the suicide attacks, Osama Bin Laden, and so, fearful of US retaliatory strikes, the UN had pulled out all international staff from Afghanistan.

Click here for map of refugee movements

The UN is sending food convoys to several parts of the country to feed its increasingly isolated people.

One of the main reasons for getting food to refugees was to stop them from fleeing, according to Peter Kessler, UNHCR spokesman in Islamabad.

But the seriousness of the situation in Afghanistan could not be underestimated, he said in a webcast with BBC News Online users.

"It is a country where 80,000 children die every year before the age of five, a country where 5,000 women die every year in childbirth," he said.

The lesson to be learnt from the Afghan refugee situation was that governments should never turn their back on refugee crises, he said, citing the "forgotten crises" of Congo and East Timor.

BBC correspondent Catherine Davis, reporting from opposition-held territory, says Afghans were still leaving the capital because of fears both of American-led attacks on the city and the detention of ethnic Tajiks and others by the Taleban.

More aid

On Saturday a truck loaded with medical supplies from the ICRC arrived in Kabul.

Aid from more UN agencies is also on the way.

Afghan woman carrying UN supplied bread
UN bakeries support 350,000 Afghans

An emergency flight from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) with supplies for Afghan refugees has arrived in Quetta, Pakistan.

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

And a UN children's fund (Unicef) convoy left Peshawar in Pakistan on Saturday with 200 tonnes of food and warm clothing for people living in areas held by the Afghan opposition Northern Alliance.

Unicef also plans to send aid convoys to Taleban-held Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Herat in the next few days, Unicef spokesman Eric Laroche told the BBC.

Refugee crisis

The UNHCR says that it plans to start work on new 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.

"And what we are finding is bad news as so many sites are in drought-stricken areas; it will be very hard to help people if a massive influx does arrive," said Mr Kessler.

"All across Pakistan [there] is a huge amount of sentiment, sometimes negative, regarding the Afghan population. We have seen human rights problems in the past... and that's another example of how exhausted the population here is with this problem," he added.

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.

Click here to return

The BBC's Matt Frei
"The UN believes there may be as many as 8m people taking part in this mass migration"
World Food Programme's Khalid Mansour
"The movement of people out of urban areas has almost stopped"
Eric Laroche, Unicef
explains how food aid is being brought to the refugees
See also:

01 Oct 01 | South Asia
How Afghans became aid dependent
30 Sep 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Afghanistan's refugees
27 Sep 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Afghanistan's future
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
On edge: Afghanistan's neighbours
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
01 Oct 01 | World
Afghanistan's missing millions
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