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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Afghan aid: How effective is it?
Aid agencies have criticised the decision by the US to combine its bomb and missile attacks with food drops.
Tens of thousands of food packs are being dropped by the US over Afghanistan. Since air strikes began on Sunday night most aid agencies have stopped deliveries into the country because of security concerns.
And aid agencies agree the amount of food aid entering the country is a fraction of what the population will need to survive winter, which begins in earnest in November.
They also fear the US aid drops, the distribution of which cannot be controlled on the ground, could dramatically hamper their own operations. Indiscriminate drops could also force desperate Afghans to venture into areas riddled with landmines.
Are the food drops the right way to get aid to the Afghan people? Is the West doing enough to make sure aid is getting through to those who need it most?
We'll be discussing military action in Afghanistan on Sunday at 1400 GMT [1500 BST] in Talking Point ON AIR, the phone-in programme of the BBC World Service and BBC News Online. If you want to take part, email us now with a telephone number where we can contact you or call us collect on Sunday on 44 20 7379 7444.
The absurdity and hypocrisy of the situation in Afghanistan is admirably illustrated by recent reports. The food dropped by the Americans is being gathered up by Afghans and sold, at enormously high prices, to starving fellow Afghans who were meant to receive them free. And who gets the blame for this? The Americans. Sound familiar?
Ali Rathore, London
I have read that the Taliban have told their people that the American food being dropped is poisoned and that they should burn it. How far has cruelty sunk in to their way of thinking that they are prepared for their people to starve rather than accept help?
Something that has obviously been forgotten by people calling the US humanitarian aid to Afghanistan hypocritical: The air defence artillery that the strikes are targeting would be turned on the cargo aircraft being used in the airdrops. They must be eliminated in order for those flights to be stepped up - which they will, as soon as it is safe to do so. I am by no means attempting to assert that this is the only reason for strikes, but it is certainly on the list.
To those criticising the US food drops: they may not be the most effective way of dealing with the humanitarian crisis, but what is your country doing to help? In my case, nothing.
It strikes me as somewhat ridiculous that UN aid officials are calling for an end to airstrikes. Of course people will starve - isn't that a universal feature of war? Instead of condemning the US and UK for hurting their "credibility," denounce the terrible leadership of the Taleban, which makes it necessary. I hope civilian suffering is kept to an absolute minimum, but these strikes have to be made to ensure the security of innocent people everywhere.
Carole K, London, UK
Why aren't more countries helping with the aid? Why are many only complaining how little or how much the US is doing? At least we are feeding some, the rest are just sitting back and pointing their "well-fed" fingers at the US. If US wasn't in Afghanistan right now, what future does its people really have?
The food drops are as ineffectual as the bombing is overkill. We should have been sending ground troops in to take the cities after the second night, with aid convoys following close behind them. We would have lost lives but the refugee situation wouldn't have become so bad.
Francisco d'Anconia, USA
I condemn the terrorist attacks on the U.S on Sep 11th,and I also consider the U.S attacks on Afghanistan are not justified as well. Consequently, this will be undoubtedly breed more terrorist acts. The U.S has to deal with this crisis more wisely and reasonably until they win what's called the anti-Terrorism War. Bombing Afghanistan will definitely cause civilian casualties and thus this action is considered terrorist as well, considering the definition of terrorism, which is actions targeting the innocent and causing an humanitarian crisis as well as civilian victims.
Last but not least, I think that the main reason of the suicide plane-hijackings was certainly that the U.S had been openly partial in favour of Israel. Therefore, the US should change its policy in this area.
It is time for the world to put their character where their mouth is. I call for an international escort for the UN HCR Aid convoys, led by countries with a predominantly Muslim population. Canada, as a world renowned peacekeeper should coordinate this effort. Mr. Musharraf, thank you for your courage. Now invite the world to your door to start delivery of this aid that everyone supports but few have shown your courage to deliver. I especially applaud your acceptance of Indian humanitarian aid. I have seen the face of the new world order, and it is us, the brave, the caring and the resolute.
I am responding to Peter of Finland - the food groups for overall nutrition are equal to all people on the planet. Why make fun of peanut butter and strawberry jam? We are not sending meat in order not to insult their diets of culture. In the meat food group - peanut butter is an almost equal equivalent. Strawberry jam is a fruit group- we cannot send bundles of strawberries because they rot obviously- we need to send non-perishables.
The Afghans (except those in power) were malnourished long before we arrived. It is not the American ideal of nutrition - it is the human body's ideal of nutrition. Look up the food groups - check into vitamins and what they do for bodies before you judge our taste in food - don't forget that we are sending wheat and grains. What other country is sending food AND medicine? We have spent billions on aiding the Afghans - what other country has? Everyone needs to do a little bit of research on American history and our humanitarian efforts. If you don't like it - fine. It is MY tax dollars that help to afford these causes. I'm broke as it is- I don't need to hear about ungratefulness.
To Dean, UK and his kind. You said that the USA as a humane society does not target unarmed civilians.
Really? Are you sure?
My question to you is:
Were the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (200,000 -300,000) civilians or military target?
Please answer this question.
"In the fiscal year 2001 the US gave $184m" - very nice, and gratefully received in Afghanistan I'm sure. In the fiscal year 2001 the US also gave Afghanistan about $250m in bombs and missiles in 3 days.
Is it not a little perverse (and wasteful) to feed someone one day and kill them the next?
It is so sad. All I hear and see on TV is that the Americans are not bombing the Afghan people! Oh, please, stop taking the world for idiots. After 20 years of extreme poverty and wars, there is no infrastructure to bomb in Afghanistan, no power plants or anything of the sort. The only targets are innocent people and landscape! I am sure that all those in "power" are well protected - by mere elimination, that leaves only the poor people of that sad country.
News reports have shown that food drops have in the majority of cases been in areas run by the Northern Alliance.
Surely these are the people that require them least!
The poor people of Afghanistan are still suffering.
If all the world is so "concerned" about the plight of the Afghan population, why haven't other so-called caring governments provided any kind of substantial relief to those starving? Why haven't any of the Muslim nations fed their destitute brethren instead of criticize the "infidels" and "hypocrites" for at least attempting something, even before September 11? God knows there is sufficient money in some of those governments to do so! Ironically, much of that money came from the US in the first place.
I hear of a planeload or two of food dropped at random, where instead thousands of carefully targeted plane loads of aid are needed. And I hear of several dozens of round the clock planeloads of bombs and missiles, where instead reconstruction and emergency relief are needed. And you ask me to judge whether the efforts are effective?
Mike, Maryland, US
I would hardly consider the US to be humane as someone wrote here. Looking back at the wars, which the US has been involved in, it clearly targets civilians to cause the maximum damage, or as one American politician said, "In order to save Vietnam, we had to destroy Vietnam". I suppose the atomic bomb was also carefully aimed so as to minimise any casualties, or perhaps their agent orange was strategically aimed to avoid civilians? And recently in Iraq, aside from the countless civilians that died from not-so-smart bombs, the ensuing sanctions only effect the civilian population, and millions have died since the war and are still dying. Clean water is apparently a lethal weapon in the wrong hands. Thus, it is quite difficult to see the US as a humane force which tries to avoid civilian casualties.
I think the food drops are a good beginning to giving aid to the people of Afghanistan, but after the military actions ease up more must be done and will be done. No matter what the anti-American ranters say about it, Americans do want to help these people. We have nothing against them. We realize there was not one Afghani among the terrorists who committed the atrocities of Sept.11.
To the question: is the West doing enough to make sure aid is getting through to those who need it most? I think we're doing what we can. Perhaps we could do better. But to those who are apologists for the terrorists nothing the West does will appease them.
Food packets are the only effective way of getting food to the starving afghan civilians. But how can we be sure that they don't get into the wrong hands?
Yuka, Tokyo, Japan
My heart goes out to those innocent people, both in the USA and Afghanistan, who just want to lead normal happy lives. The only difference is that some people lived a luxurious life and others scavenge through the mud. Some people have entire world behind them and others are caught in the web of misfortune. Instead of measly hypocritical food droppings I pray to God to end their suffering sooner and in dignified way. May God give them courage to last through these difficult times. Politics grab the headlines but humanity gets raped everyday. God bless all.
What good would it have done to position aid supplies in Afghanistan prior to the raids when the Taleban stole all the UN aid supplies weeks ago? Those with guns get the food - that's why attempts are being made to drop food away from known Taleban strongholds. Of course, it's not enough, but it is certainly more than the Taleban have done for the Afghan people in the last five years.
I think that the Americans have finally lost their grip on reality. How in the world is the destruction of a city and a people going to solve the problem of terrorism? And the food drop! Don't even get me started. What these people need is a peaceful existence so they may have a chance to have their own revolution against the Taleban, which were ironically trained and armed by the US to stick its tongue at the Russians in the eighties. The last thing they need is food packages that drop at unspeakable speed to reach very few displaced by bombs.
Abet Abet, USA
War policy makers in US and Britain are like cartoons, most of them think, if Afghans are bombed, they will fall down and cry in pain. And when they eat they will get up and walk. In fact they are throwing food and at the same time destroy it themselves by bombing it. This looks good in a cartoon serial. They are insane extremists.
First the USA and UK bomb Afghanistan, preventing aid agencies from helping refugees. The bombing is also creating another estimated one million refugees, running away from the bombing. Then they drop a pathetically small number of food packets into mine fields, so that those starving Afghans lucky to be near a food drop risk being blown up by retrieving food. An utter disgrace that trashes the notion that either country's government is following a humanitarian policy.
Those who call the airdrops of food to the Afghan people hypocritical seem to be either unable or unwilling to understand Americans. We knew that the military action against the Taleban would disrupt aid to the innocent, so we included in our plans an effort to replace some of what is being lost. We learned from previous experience that dropping boxes on top of people tends to cause injuries to those below the aircraft, not to mention the chance of being shot down during the drop. So we drop in places that they can hopefully get to without too much difficulty. Now we are accused of attempting to lure women and children into minefields. Talk about cynical and hateful opinions. I for one, wholeheartedly approve of the aid drops, and am of the opinion that those who want the US to stop trying to help people, for whatever selfish reasons they have, should get off of their lazy rear ends and try to do it themselves.
Chris C, London
The USA is doing what we can to feed these people. We cannot be expected to feed every one of them and will need more support from other countries if we want to secure the survival of the Afghan people.
Also, I would like to say that the people of the UK should be very proud of Tony Blair. He is a noble man. God bless the UK.
Dropping aid in Afghanistan is nothing but propaganda. The US and UK are killing hundreds of innocent civilians and dehumanising the killings as "collateral damage". "Killing the father and feeding the son" is what springs to mind! The US and the UK should just admit that their war against "terrorism" is nothing but a front for securing their interests in the Central Asia and Middle East oil reserves, also to keep an eye on China and the Islamic revival in the East Asian countries.
I think what we should have done was hold off on our attacks for the winter and put our military to the task of aiding the humanitarian concerns. At the same time, we could keep building intelligence attempts to locate Bin Laden or other terrorist elements. Once the winter passed, if the Taleban still refused to give up Bin Laden, then we could have gone in and removed the Taleban. This move may have gained us true support from both the Afghan people and the rest of the world.
Just to add a little perspective to the conversation. Since 1979 the US has contributed $1bn in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, more than any other country. In the fiscal year 2001 the US gave $184m in humanitarian aid, and contributed over 80% of the food sent to Afghanistan through the UN World Food Program.
I may sound naive, but why not establish a camp on the Afghan / Pakistan border with a drop point for food parcels which might then be distributed to Afghan refugees in an organised manner. While on this point we could also set up Medecins sans Frontieres to take care of the many people and children who must also be suffering from the common illnesses which afflict people in this state.
Some have said that the USA did not have a hand in destroying Afghanistan. Well of course, the Afghans have such good weapon-making capabilities. I expect these illiterate people designed the stinger missiles they use, and built them in their own huge arms factories.
I am also sure that the Taleban planted all the mines there are currently in Afghanistan so that when the US drops food their people will blow themselves up trying to retrieve that food.
Grow up people! The USA, UK and all other countries that sell arms destroyed the Afghanistan, not the Taleban. They are not helping the situation, but they did not destroy the country.
Nil Tania, Singapore
All aid packages should be stopped if bombs are being dropped? People are worried about hypocrisy as if it's preferable to either only drop bombs or only feed the starving. Maybe war should be waged and damn the Afghan people, so that you can avoid hypocrisy! All of you, who are not Afghan or starving and are typing on your computers at home, have an opinion. That - I believe - is so hypocritical. Nobody really seemed to care about the oppression before. Why now, I ask?
Airdrops of food to the Afghan people are virtually a waste of time and more of a publicity stunt by the governments concerned. The aid relief should be heavily concentrated on the border areas with Pakistan, Iran and the former communist states.
Graham, Wolverhampton, UK
I think the US is trying to fool the world by dropping "aid" to the dispersed Afghan people. Dropping a few thousand aid packages for one day is not enough for the starving millions. The US is simply trying to get the support of the Afghan people which it will definitely not get.
If the US was so concerned about the refugees, what were they doing all this while?
They were giving $6.5bn of American tax payers' money as aid to Israel, thereby supporting and funding state terrorism.
In response to Anas, from Bangalore. Before the bombing the US was only giving more money in humanitarian aid than any other country. If air drops can feed some people who wouldn't have been able to eat before, then that's money well spent.
Fadil Dilmann, Canadian Relief Foundation, Kabul, Afghanistan
Is aid to Afghanistan hypocritical? Only if you believe we are attacking the same people we mean to aid. If we bomb water treatment plants and place an embargo on chlorine as we did in Iraq then we are attacking civilians in direct violation of UN regulations and that is hypocrisy.
Mirek Kondracki, Alexandria, Virginia, USA
The food packets being dropped in Afghanistan are designed to help offset the damage to the transportation infrastructure caused by US and British military action. They also serve as an agent to try and convince the local populace that this war is not anti-Afghanistan nor anti-Muslim. This war is anti-terrorism. The meals have been carefully designed to be compatible with Muslim and vegetarian diets and should provide enough nutrients to feed one person for one day. Regardless of what you think or any conspiracy theories you may have, providing aid to innocent civilians who have been affected by this armed conflict is a standard part of American military policy and definitely a step in the right direction.
Slapping one cheek and kissing another. How would you feel if someone did that to you? You cannot do both and let everything pass as if bygones are bygones.
Perhaps someone should ask one of the starving people if they would rather have it or not? At least it's something even if it's not what everyone would wish. Still it's easy to be critical with a full stomach isn't it?
Presumably the idea of air dropping food packages is to lure a ravenous Bin Laden out of his cave and into an unmapped minefield.
Jim Wilson, Rye, USA
It's a sick joke - playing God and dropping bombs with one hand and dropping a few food packets with the other hand. The US seems to think that the people of Afghanistan are subhuman. How would it feel if the terrorists left behind a sympathy card at the site of the September 11 attacks? The US should stop the air strikes and all this irrationality
and let the UN take care of the starving
people in Afghanistan.
Bombing with bombs as well as with food? What a humanitarian joke.
It's utterly ridiculous to criticise the USA for dropping food packages along with bombs. The bombs are aimed at military targets. The food parcels are intended for the unfortunate people whom the Taleban clearly don't give a damn about. Inevitably, a percentage of each will reach the wrong people. But the people of Afghanistan are not our enemies. We have no grievance with them and we are doing as much to help them as circumstances permit. Those who suggest that the USA is deliberately dropping bombs and food on the same people are using a cynical and laughable argument to promote their own warped ideas.
It seems a strange way of helping the Afghan people. How should an Afghan child feel after having his family blown to bits, only to receive a food parcel courtesy of Uncle Sam when the dust has cleared.
Mahesh Chandra Somani, Oulu, Finland
Aid and attack is a ridiculous policy indeed. How can you convince anybody of your "good" intentions by feeding him with one hand and trying to kill him with the other? Afghans are battle hardened. You can neither win them over with food nor bomb them to submission as long as their mentality remains unchanged. Something has to be done to change their mentality.
Would the aid agencies prefer that nothing be done? If the Taleban government steals food from its people, is that the fault of the Americans? If the country is salted with landmines, is that the fault of the US Air Force? If the aid agencies have any ideas for improving the situation let them come forward. I'm sure we will all study them with great interest. I undertake to make a financial contribution towards a workable scheme.
Hypocrisy is the word. How can one have such mixed feelings? If the war is against Bin Laden, and not against Afghanistan, then why is the Afghan territory being bombed? It may get them appreciation in the international media, but it is not in any way going to help those who are suffering the attacks and insufficient air drops.
A sick joke. What logic is there that the bombarding planes drop food packets with the missiles? Nobody knows whether the recipient will get a missile or a food packet. It is a publicity tool to cover the black deeds of killing the innocent majority for the unproved foolishness of a few.
The US aid drops could do more harm than good. Being indiscriminate, they may cause hungry Afghans to stray on to areas covered with land mines. The military strikes could also have an effect through reprisals on humanitarian workers who have been involved in giving aid to the Afghans before the crisis.
Fara Kahir, Glasgow, Scotland
The aid should be delivered to the location that all the aid from rich Islamic countries goes to! How much aid is delivered from these countries?
What the US is doing to these poor people is shameful. How do you hurt someone and comfort them at the same time? The United Nations are a joke, talk about world peace!
Innocent civilians are being bombed and then food is being dropped so the cripples may survive to face yet another attack. If this is not hypocrisy then what is?
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