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Sunday, 25 November, 2001, 14:02 GMT
Dangers hamper Afghan aid effort
Parts of Afghanistan are still too dangerous for the international aid effort to be fully effective, a senior United Nations official has warned.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers made the comment as relief efforts were stepped up to assist the huge number of refugees scattered around the country.

Mr Lubbers said that, although thousands of people in the north-west had begun to return home voluntarily, in some cities up to half the population had fled.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Mr Lubbers: No secure environment for aid

He welcomed the fact that more aid was beginning to arrive, but warned it was not enough to meet the desperate need.

"Much food and other things were brought in earlier, but it is still not at all a secure environment," he said.

Robbed

"Although our international staff went back to Kabul and hope to go back to the other places, one cannot say it is safe in the country and secure enough.

"So there is quite a job to be done in creating a secure environment. "

On Saturday, a convoy of supplies from the World Food Programme (WFP) arrived in Kabul - but only after the unarmed drivers had been robbed of their personal possessions along the route.

The convoy of 47 lorries was ambushed by bandits during its journey from Peshawar in northern Pakistan.

Protection plea

The WFP says it needs to deliver about 52,000 tonnes of supplies each month if it is to reach the most needy.

Calls for a UN-backed multi-national force to protect aid convoys have so far received a cool response.

On Thursday, the UN agency's trucks were robbed near Sarobi.

And UN premises in Jalalabad and Mazar-e-Shariff were also looted last week.

Workers load a truck with WFP aid in Peshawar
The road to Afghanistan is fraught with danger
Meanwhile, in northern Afghanistan, a convoy from the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) completed the four-day journey from neighbouring Turkmenistan to the city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

The 59 trucks took 1,500 tonnes of aid for distribution to 65,000 people in and around the city.

This included food and blankets plus medical supplies for hospital treating the war wounded.

First airlift

On Friday, the WFP carried out its first airlift of food aid to Afghanistan since 11 September.

The agency said it would fly four times a day from neighbouring Tajikistan, carrying food aid to the mountainous north-east of Afghanistan to feed those stranded in isolated villages.

The deputy UN coordinator for Afghanistan, Antonio Donini, said the UN was trying to expand the presence of its international staff, but was first checking security had been restored.

The UN says it is carrying out security assessments in Kabul, Faizabad and Mazar-e-Sharif, with one due to take place in Herat shortly.

Race against time

Mr Donini said the overall situation in Mazar-e-Sharif was still fragile, but there was a sense that it was improving.

He described the humanitarian situation in northern Afghanistan as a crisis of stunning proportions.

It was a race against time and said all corridors for delivering aid would be used as they became available.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jane Logan
"The difficulty is getting it to the most needy"
The BBC's Matt Gardner
"40,000 people will benefit from this first wave of aid"
See also:

24 Nov 01 | South Asia
Aid reaches Kabul despite ambush
22 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan aid delivery 'unsafe'
22 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghan renewal 'will come from within'
21 Nov 01 | South Asia
Agencies call for Afghan peace force
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Food aid heads for Kabul
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan's huge rebuilding task
15 Nov 01 | South Asia
UN aid shipment reaches Afghanistan
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