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Afghanistan: UN relief efforts gradually overcoming security, access problems

Afghanistan: UN relief efforts gradually overcoming security, access problems

The pace of United Nations relief efforts has quickened in recent days, as security and access problems are gradually being overcome, UN officials on the ground said today.

The UN World Food Programme ("WFP) has delivered more than 34,000 metric tonnes of food into Afghanistan during the first 10 days of December, more than it did during the entire month of October, a spokesman for the agency in Islamabad said.

“WFP is continuing to be as aggressive as possible in delivering food throughout Afghanistan, but especially to those who live in the highly food-insecure areas of central and north-eastern Afghanistan,” spokesman Jordan Dey said. “We are using rail, trucks, barges and planes from five countries, utilizing six supply routes. We are serving 6 million hungry people – more than a quarter of the total Afghan population.”

The spokesman said the agency currently had international staff in Kabul, Herat and Faizabad, and was hoping to re-establish an international permanent presence in Kandahar as soon as security permitted.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was gearing up for a possible return of Afghan refugees from various parts of the region.

“There are currently some four million Afghan refugees in the region and even if a quarter of them were to return soon, that would be one million people who would be returning to a massively destroyed country,” said UNHCR spokesman Fatoumata Kaba.

The number of Afghans heading for Pakistan was going down, the spokesman noted, while return movements were on the rise. About 1,500 persons crossed back into Afghanistan on Monday, the single largest return movement in one day, until yesterday, when 1,800 persons crossed the border into Afghanistan. “They are believed to be heading for Kandahar, Herat, Ghazni, Zabul, and Kabul,” the spokesman said.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today also warned that in a worst-case scenario, some 100,000 children might die in the coming six months unless enough emergency relief aid reaches them. “By ‘worst case,’ we assume limited humanitarian access and increased mortality rates, linked to preventable diseases and exacerbated by high rates of malnutrition,” spokesman Chulho Hyun said.