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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 14:24 GMT
Afghanistan: Is the world doing enough?
The worst fighting may be over in Afghanistan but aid agencies have warned that tens of thousands of Afghans in remote areas of the country are facing starvation.

In areas such as the northern mountainous region of Abdullah Gan, a former front line between the Taleban and the Northern Alliance, the situation is desperate.

About 10,000 people in that region, and tens of thousands in other frontline areas, are living on little more than grass, according to the International Rescue Committee.

Ken Burslem, an IRC spokesman, told the BBC News Online that the IRC and World Food Programme were taking food to another 10,000 starving people in the mountainous Badghis district, near the western city of Herat. But the task of distributing food remains plagued with logistical problems.

Is the world doing enough to help the starving people of Afghanistan? If not, what more can be done? Should military troops be assigned to the task of ensuring the safe passage of aid?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

I am so sick and tired of all you people who put down the US. We are always the first ones to help with aid when a country is in need. Maybe we should stop all aid, pull all our interest from other countries, close all bases and shut down our borders. Just say to hell with all of you, you are on your own.
Alice, US

Unless and until the West realizes that if they want to win the trust of the Afghan people and those in the Middle East, they have to resolve their pending grievances. The solution of decades long grievances like crises in Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya and Iraq will bring them closer to the West. If that is not done, then West should forget about globalisation. The double standards of the US and the West towards all these issues which unfortunately involves Muslims, will not serve anyone in future. In order to eliminate suicidal elements who are willing to die for their causes, you have to find the root cause and then they will have to re-evaluate their foreign policies towards these nations accordingly. For how long will the UN act like a silent spectator to these injustices?
Salman Hasan, USA

Steps are being taken to bring stability to Afghanistan, but this is going to take time

Jonathan Michaud, UK
I think it is important to remember that outside of Kabul, the country is basically lawless, with widespread looting. Thus it is very difficult for charitable organisations to carry out their work effectively. The Afghan people were never the target of the military operation. Steps are being taken to bring stability to Afghanistan, but this is going to take time. This country has been poor for decades before either the former Soviet Union of the USA got involved. Patience is needed.
Jonathan Michaud, UK

We can send men to the moon, send probes to the outer galaxy. We have the capability of tracking down Osama and his men through caves, we can supposedly drop bombs with pin point accuracy and yet we cannot find a way or get food to the remote areas of a war torn country. There is something wrong with this picture. Billions of dollars has been spent destroying a pathetic country and its people, no doubt we have created more enemies. A fraction of the billions feeding the people of Afghanistan would have gained us friends. I cried when I saw the pictures of children forced to eat grass. Let us use the same fighters and their planes to carpet bomb the country with food.
Janeen, Georgia, USA

What has been going on is pure war profiteering

Malcolm Moore, USA
The US government will back out of any humanitarian commitment it has made once its military objectives are played out. It stood by and watched the Shiites and the Kurds slaughtered by Iraqi government forces after calling them to arms and if things get inconvenient in post-Taleban Afghanistan that's the last you'll see of them. What has been going on is pure war profiteering on the part of Bush and his cronies. It has little to do with stopping terrorism or helping the Afghan people. Troops could get the aid through, but don't expect the Americans to do anything that noble.
Malcolm Moore, USA

Afghanistan's misery started with US interference, when US policy makers used that country as a Cold War weapon, supporting the same thugs who have now been transformed into both their allies and enemies. The best thing the world can do - especially the US - is to leave that poor country alone. Past experience proves that the more US-type of 'aid' there is, the more trouble lies ahead for the unlucky Afghans.
Thanos, Greece

Yes, efforts by the United States, Great Britain and the United Nations provide a way of life for the Afghans but one must hope that this aid get to all the regions that are affected.
Bob Cooper, USA

Vineet from India, how can the subsistence farmers of Afghanistan "put their house in order"? I wasn't aware that it's possible to grow crops or keep livestock without water. Given that many parts of Afghanistan have suffered severe drought for at least the last five years, I'm not sure what more they could do.
John, UK

To John, UK: They certainly have enough arable land to provide the world with heroin. How about crops instead? That's one way to start to "put their house in order".
Franklin, Maryland, USA

Rather than continuing with their begging bowl policy and blaming the West for all their ills, Afghanistan and rest of the countries of this region should resolve to work together to put their house in order.
Vineet Joshi, India

Once again we see ultra-liberals eating crow in their sleep. They complained about successful humanitarian airdrops being "ineffective". Now they cry and whine for more airdrops. Yes indeed, the old shoot from the hip preaching without reflection. Everyone wants to be Switzerland. Pull your head out after the smoke clears and ride a Red Cross white horse while bugling your virtues. Reminds me of Kosovo.
John, USA

It would be a horrific waste not to take advantage of all of the resources currently in the region

R Vashko, USA
More can always be done. No person or child deserves to live in starvation and disease like this. These people were starving under the munificent rule of the Taleban long before the US bombing campaign. So while the US certainly isn't responsible for their current plight, it would be a horrific waste not to take advantage of all of the resources (military or otherwise) currently in the region to help international aid workers safely deliver desperately needed food and medical supplies.
R Vashko, USA

The US and UK coalition is willing to spend billions in destroying the country but the simple act of saving lives seems beyond them. How strange.
Steve, UK

I refuse to believe that the military and humanitarian operations can realistically proceed independently

Marcus, England
No, the world is not doing enough. Despite the US and UK governments insistence that both the military campaign and humanitarian aid operations have equal priority, this is clearly not occurring in practice. One seems to be proceeding completely independently of the other. I refuse to believe that military resources cannot be used for some humanitarian aid effort, even if on a smaller scale than would ultimately be required. I certainly refuse to believe that the military and humanitarian operations can realistically proceed independently as they appear to be doing.
Marcus, England

These impoverished and uprooted people, now in the millions, have suffered enough because of the vocal, brutal and barbaric few that ruled them. They have paid enough of a price. And no, the world hasn't done enough to help them out. Safe havens should be created for these people which provide shelter, basic amenities, food and primary health care. It may sound like a lot but it sure doesn't take a long time to mobilise troops. Likewise, it shouldn't take such a long time to mobilise some humanitarian aid.
Farah, USA

All day images of people who suffered as a result of attacks in America flash on our TV screens. If the issue of Afghan refugees and their deplorable condition received one fifth of the attention that it merits, our politicians and people would push for speedier relief. It's too bad that anything that does not affect the Americans directly is too boring for the American media to devote attention to even if it is related to our military action against Afghanistan. We can devote hours of coverage to one soldier who dies but I have seen nothing on TV about Afghans eating grass to survive. We are all so brainwashed here.
Maria, USA

In the past it suited our ends to abandon these people and now we finally have a chance to repay them

Richard, UK
It seems to me we are not doing nearly enough. We owe these people a great deal since we used them as our proxy fighters against the Soviet Union and did nothing to stop the spread of factional infighting and Islamic fundamentalism and corruption. In fact we seem to have openly supported many of the groups which then went on to destroy the country. At the time it suited our ends to abandon these people and now we finally have a chance to repay them. But we are doing far too little. It is in everyone's interest to ensure stability in Afghanistan.
Richard, UK

I think under adverse circumstances, agencies are doing the best that they can. After all, there is still fighting going on in many pockets of Afghanistan and Taleban and al-Qaeda forces remain at large as well as many warlords who want to return things to the way they were before. There is so much chaos still going on throughout the country that it creates life-threatening situations for aid workers. It could be the last trip they ever make and those they seek to help will not get that help.
Carl Warner, USA

The US has spent billions of dollars destroying Afghanistan's infrastructure. Their failure to spend a few million preventing famine may satisfy a few of the more jingoistic voters like Lisa but in the long run merely guarantees the creation of the next generation of Bin Ladens.
Stuart Whatling, UK

Stuart, Afghanistan never had an infrastructure to speak of- except military ordinance, violence, and drugs. Do you figure that the several years of drought was the United States fault as well?
Mike, USA

I think the Afghan government has to implement a program of its own to get this food delivered to the people that need it most. Its members know the country better than anyone else. The UN aid program gets all of its food donations from the US, Western Europe and Japan. I think the Muslim countries in the region could stop whining about the west and lend a helping hand to this effort.
Lisa, USA

Lisa, you are right to say that Muslim countries should do more to help. Indeed, all Muslims must help their brothers and sisters in need (and when the west is in need, we should help too). However, the west would more than likely not welcome Muslim help since it is now getting exactly what it wants from the weak, hungry people of this country who are unable to defend themselves from outside influence. Alas, Afghanistan has become yet another US airbase. Complaining about it won't do much good though. We all must come up with and establish sincere solutions and justice for everyone.
Leenah, Switzerland

Lisa, USA: Muslim countries help the US? You should realise that your country is slowly targeting every country in the region. Additionally, the firm position of the US in allying itself with Israel makes Muslim countries even more likely to distance themselves from the US. Many of these countries have humanitarian issues of their own. Also, what are they going to do to help the west? Bomb Afghanistan some more?
Rod, Australia

The world's delay in helping Afghans contrasts greatly with its lightening speed in attacking the same people when eradicating the Taleban. There is clearly a change in attitudes here.

See also:

08 Jan 02 | South Asia
Starving Afghan villagers eat grass

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