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Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
What's in the food drops?
A humanitarian daily ration pack
Beans, rice and lentils make up much of each pack
As well as dropping bombs, the US is dropping daily ration packs to Afghan refugees in remote parts of the country. What will they find inside?

The US-led action against Osama Bin Laden and the Taleban has been coupled with a commitment to help the millions of Afghans short of food.

Afghan refugee
War and drought have depleted food supplies
Even before Sunday's air strikes, the United Nations warned that a quarter of Afghanistan's 27m people risked starvation.

Some 37,000 individually-wrapped food packages were air-dropped into some of the most impoverished parts of the country.

Each pack contains 2,300 calories, made up of vegetarian dishes so as not to offend Muslims' dietary rules, and will be made up of some of the following:

  • Beans and lentils in tomato sauce;

  • Peanut butter and strawberry jam;

  • Rice and protein bar designed to keep well;

  • Fruit bar;

  • Mixed beans with tomato vinaigrette;

  • Biscuit, shortbread and fruit pastry;

  • Salt, pepper, napkin and a match.

    Aid agencies have criticised the move, saying air drops are ineffective compared to distribution centres on the ground.

    The air drops are symbolic more than anything

    Jim Colby
    The drops are somewhat random, as the packs are off-loaded from planes flying about 15,000 feet up.

    In 1999, food aid air-dropped into Kosovo mainly ended up in the hands of Yugoslav soldiers.

    The yellow packets are about the size and weight of a hardback book. To minimise the risk of injury to those on the ground, the packs have been designed to flutter rather than plummet to earth.

    A humanitarian daily ration pack
    Each pack is designed to flutter to earth
    The packs are inscribed with a picture of a person eating from the pouch, an American flag, and the message: "This food is a gift from the United States of America" in English.

    Republican congressman Jim Colby, who chairs the House of Representatives' committee which approves the funds for aid, has said that the aid drops are at best a gesture.

    "The air drops are symbolic more than anything. We have no evidence that the food really gets to the people who need it and lot of the food is destroyed in the drop."

    But until aid agencies can once again safely deliver supplies into Afghanistan, the drops are thought to be better than nothing.

  • See also:

    07 Oct 01 | South Asia
    Afghan aid: The supply problems
    01 Oct 01 | South Asia
    How Afghans became aid dependent
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