ICRC cuts food aid to widows, disabled Afghans
Sunday, January 14 7:59 PM SGT
KABUL, Jan 14 (AFP) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Sunday decided to cut food distribution to 22,000 widows and their families and disabled Afghans, aggravating problem for Kabul's impoverished population.
ICRC Communication Coordinator Mario Musa said the cut would come into play after the last aid distribution by May this year.
The decision is likely to place in danger of starvation around 132,000 people who have relied on the food handout since 1994 when Kabul was the main theatre of fighting between the rival factions battling for control of the capital city.
"It is not an emergency situation which gives the ICRC the right and the opportunity to intervene any more," Musa told reporters.
The ICR has been providing up to 75 kilograms (165 pounds) of wheat, 30 kilograms of rice, 15 kilograms of split peas, 13.5 kilograms of edible oil and 10 pieces of soap to each family every three months.
The distribution was not in compliance with the ICRC original mandate, he said.
The aid was seen as very substantial in a city where a civil servant is paid only about 10 dollars a month and where begging is on the rise.
The assumption that the the aid did not reach its real beneficiaries was also one of the reasons that forced ICRC to take this "difficult" decision, Musa added.
He said the ruling Taliban administration, that ousted former president Burhanuddin Rabbani from Kabul in 1996, should share the burden of feeding the needy in the capital where a quarter of the population relies on relief to survive.
"Now there are the authorities and there is a government," he said, adding that the ruling regime and the beneficiaries had been told of the cut.
But outside the ICRC building a group of Kabul widows, who had come to collect their last handout, said the decision would push their children to starvation.
There was no other hope apart from this, one widow said. "God may help us, but we will have to go begging if the distribution stops," she said, echoing the sentiments of the group's other members waiting with their petitions.
A war-disabled man said the cut would force him to leave the country where he said noone had surplus to offer to beggars.
Musa said other priorities had emerged for the ICRC due to the current drought which has affected much of the country and the conflict raging between the Taliban and their northern foes.
The ICRC, together with the United Nations, distributed relief supplies to 20,000 families in Ghor's provincial city of Cheghcheran last year to meet their food need for six months, he said.
Ghor, hit hard by the current drought, is one of the central provinces from where people are moving to the nearby city of Herat.
Afghanistan has been at war for the past 21 years in one way or another. Besides drought, fighting between the Taliban and forces of opposition commander Ahmad Shah Masood last summer, forced an estimated 300,000 people out of their homes.
Musa said the ICRC, operating since 1986, would continue other programmes here with a budget relatively higher than last year's 50 million Swiss francs (30.8 million dollars).
The agency helps six surgical wards in Kabul's main hospitals, besides giving medical supplies to the war wounded in nine other country hospitals. It also runs five orthopaedic centres providing artificial limbs to war victims.
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