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Afghanistan: despite insecurity, UN staff presence is growing

Afghanistan: despite insecurity, UN staff presence is growing

Despite continued insecurity in rural areas of Afghanistan, the United Nations now has more than 100 international aid workers inside the country at each of its regional offices, UN officials said today.

With the permanent return of the UN Regional Coordination Officer to Kandahar, along with representatives from several agencies, all regional centres now have a permanent UN international presence, a UN spokesperson told a press briefing in Islamabad.

"Over 100 UN international staff are now inside Afghanistan," said Stephanie Bunker, spokesperson for the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan. "Access beyond the cities remains problematic in several locations, due mainly to instability and lawlessness. Disarmament is now ongoing in most regional locations, but with mixed success."

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced that Executive Director Catherine Bertini is scheduled to arrive in Islamabad on Monday to kick off a five-day trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Ms. Bertini will visit Kabul and other regions from Monday to Wednesday to review WFP operations helping the hungry Afghans survive the devastating impact of war and drought, agency spokesman Khaled Mansour said. During her visit, Ms. Bertini will also meet with senior Afghan and UN officials.

The Executive Director will then visit Pakistan to observe WFP's efforts in supporting women's access to health and girls' access to education, as well as helping Pakistan deal with the burden of millions of Afghan refugees. Ms. Bertini will also meet with senior officials in Islamabad, visit refugee camps and schools in the northwest Frontier Province, where WFP was able to dramatically increase the enrolment and retention of girls in primary schools, the spokesman said.