UN reports continued shortfall in funding for Afghanistan emergency

UN reports continued shortfall in funding for Afghanistan emergency

Despite an infusion of more than $19 million over the weekend, cash contributions for the first phase of operations to help people fleeing Afghanistan still fall far short of what is needed, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

Kris Janowski, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a press briefing in Geneva that the agency had received additional donations from the United States, Germany, Australia, Finland, Luxembourg and the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO), bringing to over $31 million the total of cash contributions.

"This still represents less than two-thirds of the [$50 million] required for the first phase of the operation," he said. "The operation is still proceeding hand-to-mouth."

Meanwhile, the agency and its partners were preparing a temporary staging site a little over a mile from the Chaman border in Pakistan where they could provide for urgent humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable cases, Mr. Janowski said. Work was continuing on two longer-term sites. The Afghan borders with Iran and Pakistan remained closed and were reported quiet, he added.

Elsewhere in the region, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) were bringing supplies to Afghans stranded in no-man's land on the Afghan side of the border with Pakistan.

WFP, which had started distributing high protein biscuits, reported that the people appeared to be tired and "in pretty bad shape." Only one-third of them had shelter materials with them. For its part, UNICEF was conducting spot-checks on the health conditions of children. Drinking water and sweaters were also being distributed.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan-based UN Humanitarian Coordinator's Office said that reports from Kabul indicated that several bombs had hit residential areas close to health and feeding centres. Residential areas were becoming more dangerous because Taliban troops have moved into those areas, spokesperson Stephanie Bunker told reporters in Islamabad.

Ms. Bunker also said that a hospital in Herat was hit and was reportedly destroyed. "It was a military hospital in a military compound on the eastern outskirts of the city," she said. "The number of casualties is not known."