Afghanistan: UN aid officials concerned over security situation in Mazar-i-Sharif

Afghanistan: UN aid officials concerned over security situation in Mazar-i-Sharif

United Nations relief agencies working to deliver aid to the beleaguered people of Afghanistan are concerned about the security situation in the provincial capital of Mazar-i-Sharif, UN officials said today.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, Hassan Ferdous, a spokesman for the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, said ongoing violence had forced a UN security officer in the town to withdraw to Termez.

A spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) expressed particular concern that the situation in Mazar-i-Sharif was not stable enough to allow UN agencies to position international staff there. "The city is a strategic logistics node for access to the central and north east of Afghanistan, where there are large groups of people in need resulting from economic collapse compounded by three years of drought," said Lindsey Davies.

The spokesperson also called attention to the plight of hundreds of thousands of Afghans who may be returning to their homes or fleeing conflict. "Most are returning to their rural areas only to find no homes, no livestock and no crops and the others who are leaving are fleeing with what little they have," she said.

Echoing these concerns, Maki Shinohara, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), warned that unless safety was ensured for civilians, most displaced Afghans would not be able to return home "and even if they do, they may be forced to flee again, as they did so many times in the past."