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Afghanistan: UN relief effort continues amid persistent security concerns

Afghanistan: UN relief effort continues amid persistent security concerns

Amid persistent security concerns, United Nations agencies continued to provide relief aid to the beleaguered people of Afghanistan, UN officials said today.

"Access to Spin Boldek and Kandahar is not possible due to fighting," spokesperson Stephanie Bunker told a press briefing in Islamabad. "However, there has also been some improvement in access in certain areas, making it possible for the UN system and its NGO [non-governmental organization] partners to transport much-needed humanitarian supplies."

Ms. Bunker noted that the Torkham-Jalalabad-Kabul road, which had been blocked for several weeks, "was reopened for a while, but security changes from day to day." In the north, prevailing insecurity forced a postponement of UN missions scheduled to leave for Mazar-i-Sharif from Termez over the weekend. "We have received conflicting reports of fighting," she said.

Expressing concern over conditions facing internally displaced persons living in camps in Mazar-i-Sharif, she said the UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator had contacted the local authorities about the alleged presence of armed elements and allegations about reported violence against women in certain areas.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the agency was “extremely concerned about the plight of thousands of civilians in southern Afghanistan” following reports of renewed fighting there. “We fear that more people are going to be displaced and many more may be forced to flee into the neighbouring countries especially into Pakistan,” said Yusuf Hassan. “We are particularly concerned about the plight of people who have been displaced on more than one occasion and who are now cut off from any assistance.”

According to UNHCR, refugees arriving at the Charman border post on Sunday said conditions in Spin Boldak on the Afghan side of the border - where an estimated 60,000 internally displaced people live - are poor and deteriorating rapidly. "The refugees, who come mainly from the area of Kandahar, also said that they fled because they feared forcible recruitment by the Taliban," Mr. Hassan said.

In another development, the UN today launched an updated appeal on the emergency relief effort for Afghanistan amounting to $662 million. The appeal, part of the $2.5 billion being sought to respond to crises around the world, also flags a 30-day emergency assistance plan which sets out estimated needs by region and sector, including food, other supplies, shelter, health, water and sanitation, education and mine action.