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Food distribution in Afghanistan increasingly difficult, top UN relief official says

Food distribution in Afghanistan increasingly difficult, top UN relief official says

The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator today told the Security Council that obstacles hampering food delivery to Afghanistan could leave the country unable to meet its needs as winter sets in.

"We are fundamentally constrained by our lack of access to affected areas, caused primarily by a lack of security or consent from the Taliban for international humanitarian workers to be present," Kenzo Oshima told closed-door consultations of the 15-member Council, according to the text of his remarks made available after the meeting. He predicted that there could be a gap "between the minimum aid required in Afghanistan, and the amount that we are actually able to ship and distribute."

In his remarks, Mr. Oshima pointed out that increased fighting had left the UN unable to provide any food assistance to Kandahar for almost two months. "Virtually all of our offices, warehouses and vehicles in Kandahar have been taken over and are in fact being used by the Taliban," he said, noting that the security situation in other areas has also been volatile.

The Emergency Relief Coordinator's concerns were echoed by a spokesman for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), who told reporters in Islamabad today that the agency "is still grappling with many problems to reach all Afghans who are dependent on food aid."

"One of the main problems is access to districts that remain inaccessible due to extremely bad security conditions that make it too dangerous for aid workers from the NGOs [non-governmental organizations] to operate there," said spokesman Khaled Mansour.

He warned that some 500,000 people living in insecure areas would run out of food by the end of December. "We need to provide them with about 27,000 tonnes to help them survive the harsh winter and remain afloat until the next harvest," he said, adding "WFP is still exploring all possible ways to provide food to these people."