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Afghanistan: UN officials urge protection for civilians and aid workers

Afghanistan: UN officials urge protection for civilians and aid workers

With military action continuing in Afghanistan, United Nations officials today urged protection for civilians as well as aid workers trying to provide relief to the country's destitute and suffering people.

"With the missile strikes, the increasing lack of security in some Afghan cities, and [the] breakdown in law and order in some areas, UN Afghanistan appeals for all parties to respect the rights of civilians," Stephanie Bunker, a spokesperson for the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, told reporters in Islamabad. "We've said this before; we say it again: civilians must be protected while military strikes are going on."

Ms. Bunker also stressed the need to protect civilians and aid workers from attacks, harassment, threats and looting by elements within Afghanistan itself. "The task ahead of the aid community is already daunting enough, and the aid effort is nowhere close to where it needs to be to save lives in what is now the most serious complex emergency in the world, ever," she said.

A spokesman for the World Food Programme (WFP), Khaled Mansour, echoed this call, urging all parties "to do their very best to respect humanitarian workers and their premises and their need for security in carrying out their work."

He reported that this morning a bomb had exploded near a WFP warehouse in Afsotar on the northern edge of Kabul, injuring one casual labourer who was not seriously wounded. "WFP regrets this unfortunate incident and will follow up to ensure that the individual who was injured receives proper medical attention," he said, adding that WFP had stepped up its food deliveries in Afghanistan, "but we still need to do more."

Eric Laroche, an official with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), warned that Afghan children face life-threatening risks as winter approaches. "As many as 100,000 more children will die this winter inside Afghanistan if aid does not reach them in sufficient quantities in the next few weeks," he said. "The reason I say 'more' is because almost 300,000 Afghan children already die each year, largely of preventable causes."

UNICEF convoys continue to deliver relief supplies to tens of thousands of children in all regions of Afghanistan while providing safe drinking water in the camps, food supplements to malnourished children, and safe birthing environments for young mothers. "But it is still not enough," said Mr. Laroche, appealing for donations to help the children of Afghanistan.