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Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 18:46 GMT
Afghan aid resumes from Uzbekistan
Barge with relief supplies for Afghanistan leaves Termez
The aid will be a litmus test for local facilities
By Catherine Davis in Tashkent

The shipment of humanitarian aid across the river border between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan has resumed after a three-day holiday marking the Muslim festival of Eid.

A barge ferried supplies from the United Nation's children's fund, Unicef, as well as quilts and tents from the Save the Children UK charity.

The UN and the Uzbek Government signed a protocol on Friday intended to speed up the delivery of aid into northern Afghanistan.

The coming days are being seen as an important test of whether this new agreement and the opening of a vital bridge across the border will live up to expectations.

Vital gateway

Looking across the river which marks the border, it is difficult to see why getting aid from one side to the other is so difficult.

Aid for Afghanistan is being stockpiled in Termez
Relief supplies are being stockpiled at the Afghan-Uzbek border
For years, however, this has been a closed frontier, which has now become a gateway for urgently needed supplies.

With Uzbekistan billed as a major aid corridor, expectations have been high.

Goods stockpiled here have been shipped by barge to a port on the Afghan side.

Relief agencies most wanted to re-open a vital bridge, allowing large volumes of aid to cross quickly and efficiently.

Bureaucratic delays

The Uzbek Government spoke of security concerns, but ten days ago the bridge was opened amid intense international pressure.

Since then, however, bureaucratic demands have delayed efforts to cross, raising the question of to what extent the bridge really has been open.

Refugees in refugee camp at Konduz, northern Afghanistan
Aid workers want to speed up the delivery of aid
A UN convoy succeeded in crossing by road, but a train-load of wheat was held up.

There are also other issues.

Until the signing of a new agreement last week, non-UN agencies could not cross this border.

UN targets for food relief from here into northern Afghanistan have not been met.

Questions have also been asked about the speed of distribution, with aid workers saying many Afghans seem to have received nothing.

Conditions, meanwhile, are getting worse.

It is hoped this latest agreement between the Uzbek Government and the UN really will boost the delivery of aid, at least into Afghanistan.

See also:

09 Dec 01 | South Asia
Breakthrough in Afghan aid effort
15 Nov 01 | South Asia
UN aid shipment reaches Afghanistan
13 Nov 01 | South Asia
New wave of refugees feared
12 Nov 01 | South Asia
UN prepares major Afghan relief effort
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