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Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 22:39 GMT 23:39 UK
Fears of Afghan food crisis
Remains of the UN offices in Kabul
The UN has called for civilians to be protected
Aid agencies are increasingly fearful for the millions of Afghans left without food or medicine inside their own country.

Most of the people trapped inside the country will be too poor or weak, or now scared, to get to the border

British Red Cross spokeswoman
As many as 1.5 million Afghans have fled their homes, but as winter looms, the millions left behind are now at enormous risk, aid agencies said.

Most agencies have stopped deliveries into the country because of security concerns since US-led air strikes began on Sunday night.

And despite an anticipated mass exodus, many of the most vulnerable are those that have stayed where they are.

Condemning the air raids, one Kabul resident who stayed behind said: "They call themselves a civilised nation and are proud of acting like Hollywood cowboys ... They are vultures".

Food drops

But some residents saw the strikes as a means of throwing out the Taleban.

"I want the Taleban to go and the attacks can fulfil this," one man said.

As well as carrying out air strikes, US aircraft have been dropping food rations on drought-hit Afghanistan - 37,000 on Monday and about the same number on Sunday.

What sense is there in shooting with one hand and distributing medicines with the other?

Medecins Sans Frontieres statement

The US is also sending 165,000 tonnes of food by ship.

But aid agencies agree the amount of food aid entering the country is a fraction of what the population will need to survive winter, which begins in earnest in November.

They also fear the US aid drops, the distribution of which cannot be controlled on the ground, could dramatically hamper their own operations.

"What sense is there in shooting with one hand and distributing medicines with the other?" the French medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said in a statement.

Indiscriminate drops could force desperate Afghans to venture into areas riddled with landmines, the number of which is estimated at 10 million by the United Nations.

Restricted access

The International Organisation for Migration has begun distributing aid inside Afghanistan including 10,000 woollen blankets aimed for the western city of Herat. But it says its funding is running out.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has also sent five trucks carrying 100 tonnes of food aid from Iran to Herat.

Food supplies
WFP has 9,000 tonnes of food aid in Afghanistan and 50,000 in the region
It was originally hoping to distribute 52,000 tonnes each month and restock warehouses before winter
Within six weeks, winter is expected to cut off 100,000 families from aid

But more than 1,650 tonnes of WFP stocks have already been impounded in Kandahar, the agency said.

Its operations in Pakistan also remain seriously restricted, as are those of other agencies.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said its office in the western city of Quetta had been stoned, and its staff's freedom of movement drastically restricted.

And the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) said a 42-truck convoy of relief supplies was also stranded Quetta.

The WFP said its food stocks within Afghanistan were sufficient only to meet short-term needs.

It already has 9,000 tonnes inside Afghanistan and another 50,000 tonnes stockpiled in the region, but before the strikes began, it had hoped to deliver 52,000 tonnes each month and had planned to restock warehouses before winter made aid transportation significantly more difficult.

Many roads are expected to be impassable within six weeks, which WFP estimates will cut off 100,000 families from food deliveries.

Humanitarian corridor

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is continuing medical convoys into Kabul, as well as food distributions of its own stocks.

Unicef trucks waiting to enter Herat from Iran
Unicef aid headed for Herat at the Iranian border
A spokeswoman for the British Red Cross said a long-term humanitarian corridor into the country was needed to get essential aid to the most needy.

"Most of the people trapped inside the country will be too poor or weak, or now scared to get to the border," said Cathy Mahoney of the British Red Cross.

She added that food distribution was itself becoming a hazardous operation, given the hunger and desperation of those trying to get hold of available supplies.

The BBC's Susannah Price
"There are up to seven million people who desperately need food aid"
UNHCR's Rupert Colville
"We are getting very little information"
Nick Guttman, Christian Aid
"The air drops are a drop in the ocean"
See also:

09 Oct 01 | Middle East
Afghan aid convoy leaves Iran
01 Oct 01 | South Asia
Food reaches hungry Kabul
08 Oct 01 | South Asia
Taleban refuse to bow to US
08 Oct 01 | South Asia
Musharraf firm as protests erupt
08 Oct 01 | South Asia
Enduring Freedom - the first strikes
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