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As Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis deepens, UN relief official urges more aid

As Afghanistan's humanitarian crisis deepens, UN relief official urges more aid

Underscoring the urgent need for aid to the beleaguered people of drought-stricken, war-torn Afghanistan, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator today stressed that any anti-terrorism actions must take account of humanitarian concerns.

Speaking to reporters at a press briefing in New York, Kenzo Oshima noted the international community's strong resolve to fight terrorism, stressing that "any action based on this commitment must be designed to protect innocent civilian populations."

Mr. Oshima warned that events following the 11 September terrorist attacks against the United States were "likely to aggravate the already dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, with potential regional ramifications."

In the face of this deepening crisis, the UN and its partners would continue to protect and assist Afghan populations in and around Afghanistan, he said, appealing to donors to contribute resources to those efforts. He also appealed to countries in the region to help prevent a further tragedy "including by ensuring that their borders are open to all those who deserve protection and assistance."

The UN was responding by strengthening its ability to prepare for contingencies in the region, said Mr. Oshima. "People in Islamabad and on the ground in other places - as well as at Headquarters - are working around the clock to do this." Key UN agencies have dispatched senior officials to Islamabad to respond to emerging developments.

Describing the complex problems impeding the relief effort, Mr. Oshima said very few commercial trucks were operating inside Afghanistan, while all international UN staff had been withdrawn from the country. Food stocks were dwindling. The Taliban authorities had sealed off contacts between the UN and local staff in the country. "Without means of communication, our operation is made extremely difficult if not impossible," he said.

Mr. Oshima will head to Berlin next week to attend a meeting on 5 October of the Afghan Support Group, which brings together key donor countries, in an effort to shore up assistance to Afghanistan.