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UN deplores curbs on aid efforts in Afghanistan

UN deplores curbs on aid efforts in Afghanistan

The United Nations today voiced its protest over obstacles faced by aid workers in Afghanistan, where a key food project is threatened with termination because of the policies imposed by Taliban officials.

"The Office of the United Nations Coordinator for Afghanistan deplores the interference the aid community in Afghanistan has increasingly faced in recent weeks while staff work to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people," the Islamabad-based Office said in a statement. In response to this situation, the UN Coordinator, Erick de Mul, has held three days of talks with Taliban officials in Kabul.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned the Taliban authorities that it will be forced to suspend the operation of general bakeries feeding 282,000 people in Kabul on 15 June if the agency's surveyors remain unable to determine the most needy people in the war-battered capital.

"WFP has been trying for over a year now to convince the Taliban authorities that many hungry people in Kabul are deprived of food aid because the beneficiary lists need to be revamped," said WFP's Country Director for Afghanistan, Gerard van Dijk. "We need to make sure that those receiving aid are the truly needy."

In April, the Taliban had granted permission for the survey, which aimed to include poor widows and their children in the bakery project, but that permission was withdrawn last Monday.

"This means that about 6,000 widows and their children, who have no recourse to provide for themselves other than begging, will now be deprived of the urgently required food aid that WFP Afghanistan intended to provide," Mr. van Dijk said.

Although its general bakeries face suspension, WFP said it would continue to operate 21 bread shops that are run by women and serve more than 40,000 widows and their children who are registered as beneficiaries.

At the same time, the agency will continue its $76 million emergency operation aimed at helping 3.8 million poor Afghans avoid starvation due to the combined effects of drought and civil war.

Over the past three years, the aid community has channelled into Afghanistan over $600,000 per day -- a figure that is expected to reach $800,000 per day in 2001, according to the UN Coordinator's Office.