No response to urgent UN appeals to feed Afghan refugees: WFP
ISLAMABAD, Jan 15 (AFP) - International donors have failed to respond to an urgent appeal for 4.9 million dollars to help feed 60,000 Afghan refugees this year, the United Nations food agency said Monday. World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman Khaled Mansour said representatives from the major donor countries would be taken to the main refugee camps in Pakistan this week.
"So far we have not received any financial aid or any aid in kind. Although we have approached the donors already, we hope to get a positive response as soon as possible," he told AFP.
The WFP last week announced a plan to feed 60,000 refugees, mostly women and children who have fled drought and civil war, for the rest of 2001.
Around 70,000 Afghans have taken shelter in refugee camps in northwest Pakistan since September. Their numbers have increased dramatically in recent weeks, outstripping relief agencies' resources.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) last week said some 750 people were crossing the border daily, fleeing the war between the ruling Taliban militia and opposition forces as well as the worst drought in memory.
Many more are expected to come, with almost half a million people living in displacement camps in Afghanistan.
UN officials have warned the situation could become a famine if the drought ruins the next harvest and international aid is not forthcoming.
Mansoor said the WFP currently had enough food to feed 60,000 refugees for three months, with stocks being diverted from other areas to meet the urgent new demand.
"Our fear is that if we do not receive the aid in three months we will not be able to feed these people for the rest of the year and we will be short in the areas we borrowed from," he said.
"We will consider helping any more people who are given refugee status if our resources are met."
The WFP needed 12,000 tonnes of food for 60,000 refugees this year, on top of some 20,000 tonnes a month that is distributed throughout Afghanistan, he said.
UN Coordinator for Afghanistan Eric de Mul last week called an emergency meeting of donors and asked for an immediate response to funding appeals.
His office said the situation in Afghanistan was "rapidly deteriorating" with more than half a million people -- or some 2.6 percent of the population -- internally displaced.
The UN's consolidated appeal for Afghanistan this year totals 229 million dollars for some 332 projects including mine clearing, drought relief, refugee assistance and drug control.
De Mul specifically called on donors to provide 3.5 million dollars for non-food items such as shelters, blankets and clothing, 3.2 million to food for work programmes and 600,000 for seeds.
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