Following through on a decision announced earlier this month, the Taliban has shut down all but two United Nations political offices in Afghanistan, a United Nations spokesman reported today.
"As of today, the UN political presence is limited to Kabul and Faizabad after the Taliban shut down four other UN political offices in Mazar-I-Sharif, Herat, Jalalabad and Kandahar in line with its May 20 deadline for their closure," spokesman Fred Eckhard told reporters in New York.
The office of the UN Special Mission in Afghanistan will continue to operate in Kabul, while the Secretary-General's Personal Representative for the country, Francesc Vendrell, will also pursue the UN's work there.
Although the closure does not apply to the UN humanitarian presence in Afghanistan, the aid community is facing "increasing obstacles from the Taliban authorities in carrying out work," Mr. Eckhard observed.
Meanwhile, in neighbouring Pakistan, the World Food Programme (WFP) today started distributing food supplies to more than 70,000 Afghans refugees living in a squalid site called Jalozai near Peshawar.
"We have been concerned about the destitute Afghans in Jalozai camp for some time now," said WFP Regional Manager Mike Sackett. "This food distribution should ease their situation."
Since the beginning of this year, the agency has been providing food to over 65,700 Afghan refugees in the relatively more secure New Shamshatoo and Akora Khattak camps in Peshawar. In all, WFP plans to provide more than 12,000 tonnes of food to the poorest Afghan refugees in those camps at a cost over $4.8 million. However, WFP Programme Advisor Rahman Chowdhury predicted that "this commitment could increase if conditions permit in Jalozai camp."
Inside Afghanistan, WFP is distributing about 20,000 tonnes of food each month towards its overall goal of helping 3.8 million poor Afghans get their daily food requirements this year.