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Tuesday, 27 November, 2001, 11:32 GMT
Herat leader warns of relief crisis
Afghan refugee children wait to receive food in Maslakh camp near Herat
Hundreds of new refugees arrive in Herat daily
The former governor of Herat, Ismail Khan, who now controls most of western Afghanistan, has appealed for urgent international help to stave off what he describes as an imminent humanitarian disaster.

Ismail Khan
Ismail Khan says the roads are open and secure
With winter cold now setting in and roads expected to be blocked by snow soon, tens of thousands of destitute people are trying to make their way westward to Herat, hoping to survive.

Mr Khan told the BBC that officials and Mujahideen commanders in the Ghor and Badghis provinces east and north of Herat had reported that an estimated 100,000 people were on the road trying desperately to get to Herat.

In Pakistan, meanwhile, aid and development agencies have started three days of talks on rebuilding Afghanistan, stressing the need to listen to the needs of the Afghans.

Seven million vulnerable

The conference, organised by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations, hopes to find new ways to help Afghans reconstruct their country and economy, shattered after two decades of war.

Refugees at the Maslakh camp, about 10 kilometres from Herat
The camps are overflowing
Afghanistan has the largest refugee population in the world.

A UN official said there were up to seven million people in the country who were extremely vulnerable due to the continuing drought and fighting.

Mr Khan told the BBC that Herat and nearby refugee camps have already been swamped by hundreds of new arrivals every day. The camps are full and there are no facilities for the newcomers.

People dying

He said that if an immediate international relief operation was not forthcoming, a humanitarian disaster would be inevitable.

People are already dying, he said.

Refugee children in Afghanistan
An immediate international relief operation is necessary
The borders with both Iran and Turkmenistan are now open and the roads to the stricken interior are secure. So there was no reason, he said, for an emergency relief operation not to be mounted.

There are already hundreds of thousands of refugees in the Herat area, with aid organisations struggling to meet their most basic survival needs.

Most of these refugees are not fleeing hostilities. They are the victims of the drought and famine that have resulted from three successive years with no rain.

Many of them had to sell their few remaining possessions to get money for their journey and they are left with absolutely nothing and no livelihood to go back to.

Processes interlinked

The BBC's Susannah Price in Islamabad says the aid and development agencies meeting there have called for Afghans to return from abroad to help the redevelopment process.

The conference coincides with the meeting of Afghan parties in Bonn to work towards a new government, and officials stressed that the two were interlinked.

One UN speaker pointed out that recovery and reconstruction would be essential to the political process just as the political process was essential for recovery and reconstruction.

MEP, Emma Nicholson
"There is just not enough food"
See also:

26 Nov 01 | South Asia
Thousands face hunger in Kandahar
25 Nov 01 | South Asia
Dangers hamper Afghan aid effort
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
Afghanistan's hidden refugees
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Afghanistan's huge rebuilding task
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