UN begins to re-establish humanitarian aid facilities in Afghanistan
A senior UN official, who had just returned from Herat, told reporters in Islamabad today that he had been struck by the changed situation in the city. "Despite great poverty, things are looking up," said Antonio Donini, the UN's Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan. "The people seem to be comfortable with the new authorities and there is a sense of optimism in the air."
As of tomorrow, he added, there will be 23 international UN staff in Herat and foreign staff of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were also beginning to return.
The situation in the camps for displaced persons seemed to be under control, as there had been no disruption of food aid to the camps since 11 September, Mr. Donini said. Moreover, large amounts of life saving non-food items were coming in from the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). "While conditions in the camps in Herat are well below international standards, people will have enough food, warm clothes, blankets and shelters to survive the winter," he said.
Meanwhile with the changing events in Kandahar over the past 24 hours, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it hoped it would soon be able to start moving supplies into the city as soon as security conditions on the ground permitted.
"WFP is extremely concerned about 238,000 people living in the city of Kandahar and its surrounding areas that we have not been able to reach since September due to the insecurity there," said spokesman Lindsey Davies. "As soon as the situation stabilizes in Kandahar and the road from Quetta to the city is safe enough - so the truckers feel confident to move along it - we are ready to move in."
The spokesman said the agency had plenty of food stocks in Quetta to feed the people in the Kandahar region, and that its trucks and staff were on standby.
In other news, the UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees, Kamal Morjane, met with Pakistani officials today to brief them on the agency's voluntary repatriation plan for Afghans. Mr. Morjane, who arrived in Islamabad on Thursday, also requested the government's continued engagement in working jointly with UNHCR in assisting the returns of refugees.
For his part, the Minister for Kashmir Affairs, Northern Areas and States & Frontier Regions, Abbas Sarfraz Khan, re-assured Mr. Morjane that added security would be provided to UNHCR staff, following an attack last Tuesday.