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UN agency to employ record number of Afghan women to survey food needs

UN agency to employ record number of Afghan women to survey food needs

In a sign of the drastically altered social landscape in Afghanistan, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced that it would employ a record number of women to survey food needs in Kabul as part of a major distribution effort for the city.

"WFP will start the largest-ever house-to-house survey and issuance of food coupons to people living in the city of Kabul," spokesperson Lindsey Davies told reporters in Islamabad. "Not only is it the largest survey of its kind done in Kabul, but it also involves the largest number of women paid by WFP in Afghanistan," she added, noting that some 2,400 women would be among the 3,612 surveyors.

"Mobilizing these thousands of women to work en mass with WFP is hugely significant," said Ms. Davies. "We're able to do something now that we haven't been able to do for years," she added, referring to the period of Taliban rule when women were virtually barred from working.

Following the registration process, expected to take several days, food distribution can begin "hopefully by the weekend," she said. Surveyors will issue each household a token good for a 50-kilogramme bag of wheat, roughly enough to feed a family for one month. The agency will then use local radio and TV stations to announce where families can collect their food.

In a related development, the Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), Carol Bellamy, spent the weekend in Kabul, where she pledged both immediate and long-term relief aid and assistance to Afghan families.

"Ms. Bellamy said that for some time, Afghanistan has been one of the worst places in the world for a child to grow up in," UNICEF spokesperson Chulho Hyun told the press in Islamabad. "The challenges are daunting, but there is also great opportunity."

The UNICEF chief today continued her five-day tour of the region, visiting Kotkai camp for Afghan refugees in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. "She had opportunities there to speak at length with children and women, and in discussions with various NGO and local government officials, she urged the UNICEF partners to increase their level of participation in providing more education opportunities to the children," the spokesperson noted.

Ms. Bellamy's programme also included a stop in Quetta, Pakistan, where she was scheduled to meet with UNICEF staff as well as representatives of the Pakistani Government.