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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 22:35 GMT 23:35 UK
UK aid workers warn of famine
An Afghan refugee woman in Maslakh near Herat, western Afghanistan
Millions of Afghans may have to depend on food aid
Two British aid workers have returned to Heathrow after leaving Afghanistan for fear of a military strike by the US in retaliation for last week's terrorist attacks.

Christian Aid workers David Horrocks, 35, and Oliver Burch, 50, warned of the crisis facing the Afghans they have been helping.

Thousands of Afghans have been pouring towards border areas in the last few days.

Pakistan, which already hosts 2.5m refugees fleeing civil war and drought, has closed border crossings for fear of being overwhelmed.

Mr Burch, of the Forrest of Dean in Gloucestershire, and Mr Horrocks, of Wigan, said most Afghans were baffled by recent events.

Afghanistan refugee children in Pakistan
Aidworkers say villagers are baffled by events

Mr Burch said: "I don't think people understand what has happened in the United States.

"They don't have any radio in the villages, or any television.

"They don't even know who President George W Bush is - the atmosphere is one of bewilderment and confusion.

"There is a growing sense of nervousness and people in the cities are fleeing for the borders."

Mass starvation

Afghanistan is in the grip of a three-year drought and on the verge of mass starvation.

The UN has predicted that by November, 5.5m Afghans - about 25% of the population - will be dependent on food supplies.

But last week it and other international aid agencies were forced to withdraw foreign staff following warnings of military attacks.

It estimates that current food supplies will last only a further two weeks.

Mr Burch, who spent six months in a mountain village in the Gohr province, said: "If wheat isn't there by October, the snow will cause the roads to close and people will be in real trouble."

He urged the international community to consider the humanitarian consequences of any military action.

He said: "Whatever is done, it would be very easy to injure people who bear no guilt for what has happened in America."


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