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UN agencies seek urgent funding for Afghanistan relief efforts

UN agencies seek urgent funding for Afghanistan relief efforts

With severe winter temperatures just a month away in Afghanistan, United Nations agencies working in the country and surrounding region urged donor governments today to respond more rapidly to emergency appeals for funding.

A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told reporters in Geneva that as of Monday, the agency had received only some $12 million in cash contributions of the estimated $50 million needed to care for a possible influx of 400,000 new Afghan refugees. "Donor governments have formally pledged another $11 million, but these pledges have not yet been translated into cash," said Ron Redmond.

The spokesman underscored the agency's urgent need for funds to continue preparations and to pre-position relief supplies in case of a mass exodus of Afghans. "Pre-positioning of supplies at this stage remains crucial to ensure that UNHCR can respond quickly should any major outflow begin," he said.

The Rome-based World Food Programme, meanwhile, reported that it has received less than 6 per cent of its appeal for $257 million, despite generous pledges. For its part, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) has received only half of the $36 million it is seeking to assist millions of vulnerable children in and around Afghanistan.

In Islamabad, UNICEF spokesman Chulho Hyun told a press briefing that the agency's latest relief delivery to Kandahar, a nine-truck UNICEF convoy carrying 450 hand-pumps and related accessories, had arrived in Kandahar on Monday afternoon. "These materials have been off-loaded and distributed to NGOs [non-governmental organizations], and they will be installed in IDP [internally displaced person] camps and other drought-affected areas."

Describing the insecure situation prevailing in Kandahar, Stephanie Bunker, a spokesperson for the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, said that last Friday, unidentified armed elements had forced their way into a UNICEF office, locked the guard inside the guardhouse and stole office equipment, including a laptop computer. "Police guards have now been posted to protect it from further looting," she said.

Ms. Bunker also reported that food and other relief supplies had reached Mazar-I-Sharif in the North as well as Herat in the West. But she warned that "internally displaced persons in Hazarajat and the Central Highlands appear to be far less fortunate" as very little assistance was reaching those areas.