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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 07:46 GMT
Afghan aid stranded by heavy snow
Winter scene
About seven million Afghans depend on food aid
By the BBC's David Loyn in Badghis

Heavy snow has blocked all routes into the area worst affected by hunger in western Afghanistan and no supplies are now getting in.

Vehicles piled with grain are stranded in Qala Inow, the regional capital of the Badghis province, where aid organisations have been struggling against appalling conditions all winter.

Map showing Qala Inow
Aid trucks are not even venturing out from Qala Inow on Wednesday, because they literally cannot see the route through the snow in the mountains and a strong wind has taken temperatures to well below freezing.

It is a hard blow to a supply system which has only been operating fully for a few weeks, since it was disrupted by the fighting and American bombing.

Seven million people in Afghanistan are reliant on food aid to survive, but nowhere are they more vulnerable than in the mountains here where many have already died and many others are just clinging to life.

Tens of thousands of people face starvation this winter in western Afghanistan - despite the huge international aid effort.

Too weak to carry

The disruption to supplies during last year's fighting broke a vulnerable food chain.

Informal camps have developed around grain distribution points because many people are too weak to carry their food home.

Residents of Kabul clear snow from roof
Ironically, the snow gives hope after years of drought
Tuberculosis is spreading among people weakened by hunger.

This is only the second time since food distribution began again in December that supplies have been blocked.

A local Oxfam representative said that was very damaging to the aid effort, although, ironically, the snow will be a good thing in the long term.

It brings much needed water to the mountains after four years of drought.

But in the short term it means, inevitably, that more people will die.

The BBC's David Loyn in Western Afghanistan
"Aid has been pumping in ... but it has not been nearly enough"
See also:

04 Feb 02 | South Asia
Hunger and death in Afghan villages
30 Jan 02 | South Asia
Eyewitness: Afghan refugees' hunger
01 Feb 02 | South Asia
Snow flurries in Kabul bring hope
29 Jan 02 | South Asia
More Afghan refugees in Pakistan
28 Jan 02 | South Asia
Bush pledges Afghan aid boost
02 Feb 02 | South Asia
Peacekeepers key to Afghan future
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