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Afghanistan: UN aid effort hampered by insecurity, lack of access

Afghanistan: UN aid effort hampered by insecurity, lack of access

Hamstrung by overall insecurity and the resulting problems of access, United Nations relief agencies continued to scramble to deliver humanitarian aid throughout Afghanistan, UN officials said today.

"One obvious reason for lack of access is the continued bombardment by the US-led coalition that is happening in the south," Stephanie Bunker, spokesperson for the UN Coordinator for Afghanistan, told reporters in Islamabad. "In some areas, presence of Taliban fighters and factional infighting have contributed to insecurity. Looting and banditry continue to pose a threat in some areas, and in some cases, obstructions are being caused by local authorities."

Adverse winter weather was also affecting the delivery of badly needed aid to the provinces in the northeast, west and centre, which were some of the areas worst affected by drought and conflict, Ms. Bunker said.

Highlighting risks facing aid workers, staff from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, were ambushed by unknown gunmen on Tuesday evening as they were returning to Peshawar in northwest Pakistan. "Three gunmen tried to stop UNHCR's two vehicles; one vehicle took three shots, but with considerable luck, no one was injured," said Maki Shinohara, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) this morning resumed an airlift of food to northeast Afghanistan after a break of several days due to bad weather. The airlift was set up late last month to bolster the existing truck deliveries in a bid to bring sufficient quantities of urgently needed food aid to 274,000 people living in the north-eastern part of the country.

Weather and snow has started to affect food deliveries by trucks into the rural areas of the northeast provinces, as trucks have found it difficult to get through on some routes, agency spokesman Lindsey Davies said. He added that WFP needed to bring in about 16,000 tonnes before the end of the year; but so far about half had been delivered.

For its part, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) office in Herat will try to help children survive the winter by conducting a training course on acute respiratory infection for 40 health workers active in camps for displaced persons.

In another move, a UNICEF-supported emergency vaccination drive against measles, which surges in winter, is scheduled to cover some 390,000 children in 22 districts of the Western Region for a month's time from 20 December, a spokesman for the agency said.