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Tuesday, 8 January, 2002, 17:39 GMT
UN food aid for Herat
An Afghan boy hugs a bag of wheat from Finland, delivered by the WFP
Some Afghans are leaving the country in search of food
By Emma Jane Kirby in Geneva

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) has begun its first major distribution of supplies in the city of Herat in western Afghanistan.

The aid agency plans to give out more than 2,500 tonnes of food over the next 10 days, in one of its biggest distributions of food supplies since war broke out in Afghanistan.

Obviously there are still places where we have difficulty to reach people in need

WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume
But the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has warned that in spite of an increased presence of aid agencies, many people are still trying to leave Afghanistan in search of food.

Fifty WFP employees have been sent to Herat to hand out lentils, high-energy biscuits and vegetable oil to some 340,000 people, or some 78% of the city's total population.

The International Organisation for Migration is also in Herat registering families as they collect their food parcels and handing out clothing, tents and blankets.


Christiane Berthiaume, WFP spokeswoman, says that while the operation will reach Herat's most vulnerable, there are still concerns for people living in other areas of Afghanistan.

"Herat has been a very insecure place for many, many, many weeks, so we have not been able to reach all the vulnerable people as we will be able to right now," she said.

"Obviously there are still places where we have difficulty to reach people in need and Kandahar is one of them, as is the south of Mazar-e-Sharif and also [around] Jalalabad."

UNHCR is warning that a lack of aid programmes in the south of the country has driven many people to try to flee Afghanistan in search of food.

The agency says it is currently in negotiations with the Pakistani authorities to allow some 3,000 Afghans who are stuck in no-man's land at the Chaman border to enter the refugee camps in south-west Pakistan.

The BBC's Emma Jane Kirby
reports on the UN's first major distribution of supplies to Herat in western Afghanistan
See also:

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Taleban law chief 'surrenders'
27 Dec 01 | South Asia
Kandahar 'no go' for aid convoys
22 Dec 01 | South Asia
Karzai pledges peace and stability
19 Dec 01 | South Asia
Afghan aid resumes from Uzbekistan
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