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UN agency begins feeding hundreds of thousands of hungry Afghans in Herat

UN agency begins feeding hundreds of thousands of hungry Afghans in Herat

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today began distributing food coupons to some 340,000 people in the Afghan city of Herat.

"The beneficiaries have been identified by WFP as the most needy people," agency spokesperson Wagdi Othman told reporters in Islamabad. The citywide food distribution, involving more than 2,600 metric tonnes of wheat, will take place over a period of 10 days to avoid overcrowding at distribution sites.

Near Herat, the spokesperson said disturbances had recently caused "severe" problems at Maslakh camp, where WFP distributes 90 metric tonnes of food a day. "Armed groups have repeatedly entered the camp and discouraged international aid groups from doing their humanitarian work," Othman said.

The spokesperson called the Maslakh effort "our single largest food distribution point in the entire country of Afghanistan." WFP, which feeds some 324,000 people there each month, has been operating in the area for two years.

Meanwhile, international staff returned to Jalalabad yesterday with the first UN flight to the city since 11 September.

In another positive development, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) reported that the measles vaccination campaign now under way in the country had already reached more than 142,000 children in Kabul. "This tally is three times the total that was reported between January and October of last year for all the provinces in the Central Region," noted agency spokesperson Chulho Hyun.

The spokesperson also called attention to reports of "a very active response by mothers and caregivers, flocking to vaccination posts in and around the capital."

The UN estimates that measles kills some 35,000 Afghan children each year. The $8 million campaign, which is being organized by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), aims to vaccinate up to 9 million Afghan children.