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Afghanistan: instability in Mazar-i-Sharif compromises UN's ability to deliver aid

Afghanistan: instability in Mazar-i-Sharif compromises UN's ability to deliver aid

Insecurity prevailing in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif is hampering the ability of the United Nations to transport food to key regions, a UN spokesman said today.

"The situation in Mazar remains very unstable," Stephanie Bunker, spokesperson for the UN Coordinator for Afghanistan, told the press in Islamabad. "As a result, the UN's ability to deliver much needed humanitarian aid has been further diminished."

Although some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are still operating in Mazar, "the areas surrounding the city are extremely unstable, and there is inadequate assistance for people in most northern provinces," Ms. Bunker said. She warned that if large-scale food and humanitarian relief assistance was not rushed in soon, many people could die. The UN estimates that there are up to 3 million vulnerable people in the north.

At the same time, Ms. Bunker said security in Kabul and Herat was improving. She added, however, that following heavy bombardment by the coalition along the highway between Herat and Kandahar and Kandahar and Kabul, the movement of public transport and commodities had been seriously affected.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today expressed alarm over rising ethnic tensions in Pakistan's tribal area along the border with Afghanistan. "Recent developments inside Afghanistan, in particular the killing of many Taliban fighters last week in the prison battle in Mazar-i-Sharif, seems to be unsettling the population in the tribal area," said Maki Shinohara.

The agency urged all parties to respect the rights and human dignity of those who find themselves in a minority situation due to ethnicity, tribal differences or political views. "Tensions and hatred between groups are extremely difficult to reverse, especially when violence is committed against a particular group," said the spokesperson. "In a diversified and complex situation as in this region surrounding Afghanistan, it is absolutely necessary for all parties involved to refrain from retaliatory actions, if Afghanistan was to have a stable future."

In another development, a UN survey team headed to Pakistan and Afghanistan over the weekend to assess support requirements for a possible enhanced UN presence in the region in accordance with Security Council resolution 1378 (2001), which affirms the UN's central role in supporting Afghan efforts to establish a transitional administration leading to the formation of a new government.