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Saturday, 6 October, 2001, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Afghan cash pledges top appeal
An Afghan refugee mother feeds her child whilst begging
Millions are facing starvation this winter
Donor countries have pledged $608m for Afghan refugees - far more than the United Nations has asked for.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had appealed for $584m to help millions of Afghans at risk of starvation in Afghanistan and bordering countries.

The money was pledged by countries at a two-day meeting co-ordination meeting of the Afghan Forum in Geneva.

Details still have to be settled and some funds will go to non-UN relief groups.

Iran and Pakistan

UN emergency relief coordinator Kenzo Oshima said: "This was not a pledging meeting but many governments took the opportunity to outline their responses to the UN appeal."

The Afghan Forum includes donor countries, UN aid agencies and neighbouring states such as Iran and Pakistan.

It was created before the 11 September attacks in the US as a response to the Afghan refugee problem.

Eight million people are expected to need food aid inside Afghanistan this winter.

The United Nations says it is the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Worst drought

The country is already bracing itself for military strikes by the United States and its allies, over the attacks on New York and Washington, yet faces a famine crisis of "stunning proportions", says the UN.

The worst drought in three decades and 23 years of armed conflict has left the country - and its many refugees outside its borders - dependent on international food aid.

Afghan refugees in Pakistan
Thousands are setting up home in refugee camps

Mr Oshima said countries committed themselves to $180 million of financing for projects already identified by the United Nations, including food programmes and relief for refugees.

A further $28 million would go to non-UN groups such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and another $400 million was promised to other unspecified projects, he added.

Some countries would need parliamentary approval before granting further funding, which could prolong the release of funds.

"We hope decisions will be taken as soon as possible," he said.

Some $188 million of the UN appeal is earmarked for the World Food Programme (WFP) which estimates that around a quarter of Afghanistan's 26 million population needs aid to survive.

The BBC's Freya Michie
"The UN is preparing for a major humanitarian aid push"
See also:

01 Oct 01 | South Asia
Food reaches hungry Kabul
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
05 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghans' camps without hope
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
07 Oct 01 | South Asia
Afghan aid: The supply problems
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