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AFGHANISTAN: UN warns of humanitarian crisis in inaccessible areas

KABUL, 29 October 2007 (IRIN) - The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs, and the head of World Food Programme (WFP) mission have warned of humanitarian crises in some parts of the country if food is not delivered before winter.

“Food shortages and the winter could produce a human catastrophe” in food-insecure parts of Afghanistan, if food is not delivered promptly, Koenigs told reporters in the capital, Kabul, on 29 October 2007.

“We want and need a humanitarian space to reach communities,” Koenigs said.

Badghis, Daikundi and Ghor provinces most urgently need food aid before the first snowfall, said the head of WFP in Afghanistan, Rick Corsino.

Aid agencies have recommended 14,000 metric tonnes (MT) of mixed food be delivered to Ghor before late November.

Potential displacement may occur in Ghor and other food-insecure provinces should food assistance fail to reach needy people before December, aid agencies warn.

“Time is running out”

About 400,000 vulnerable people are in urgent need of food assistance before winter starts and snow blocks routes in the mountainous regions of central-west, central and northeastern Afghanistan, WFP officials said.

“Time is running out and we need to move the food quickly,” said Corsino.

However, WFP faces serious problems in moving food convoys in the restive parts of the country, particularly through an important ring road that connects southern and western Afghanistan.

In 2006, five attacks on trucks carrying WFP’s food aid were reported, while 30 attacks have been reported this year, according to Corsino.

At least 40 aid workers have been killed this year (34 national, seven international); 76 humanitarian workers abducted (44 national, 25 international); 55 humanitarian aid convoys and 45 humanitarian facilities attacked, ambushed or looted by gunmen, Koenigs said.

The UN's top official in Afghanistan called on all warring parties in the country, including Taliban insurgents, to “stop attacking humanitarian workers” and “ensure a safe passage for humanitarian convoys” in volatile and inaccessible areas.

“This is not a political question. This is a question of moral obligation,” Koenigs said.

Because of repeated attacks, 1,000MT of food aid has been wasted, while transportation prices have also risen by up to 50 percent, affecting annual budget expenditures.

But WFP says in terms of resources it is better prepared than in 2006 and has adequate food supplies. The biggest obstacle, however, is “how to deliver” and reach food-insecure people in areas with accessibility problems, Corsino added.



Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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