U.N. Aid Agencies Say Afghan Funding Not Flowing
Tuesday October 16 10:22 AM ET
GENEVA/DUNSHANBE (Reuters) - U.N. agencies said Tuesday that funding for the international aid effort for Afghanistan was not flowing despite the humanitarian emergency.
The U.N. World Food Program also launched an urgent appeal for food aid for neighboring Tajikistan where one million people are facing the specter of famine after two years of drought.
Earlier this month, donor countries promised an immediate $180 million for U.N. aid agencies and other relief organizations seeking to help Afghanistan, with a further $400 million to follow later.
Both the United States and Britain, allies in the U.S.-led air war against Afghanistan's Taliban rulers, have stressed the need to provide assistance to the country's suffering millions.
But the U.N. agencies, including the WFP and the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said only a small part of the promised financing had been received.
The WFP appealed late last month for $257 million for Afghanistan, but so far it has received less than $14 million, spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume told a news conference.
The UNHCR says it needs $50 million to prepare camps in northern Pakistan for a first refugee influx from neighboring Afghanistan, but to-date donations total just $12.5 million.
``It is vital that cash start flowing as soon as possible so we can get things in place,'' spokesman Ron Redmond said.
The WFP currently feeds some 1.7 million people a day inside Afghanistan and fears up to 7.5 million people could eventually be dependent on international aid to survive.
The agencies say the emergency is made more acute by the approach of the harsh Afghan winter which will severely curtail their ability to distribute aid inside the country.
The United Nations Children's Fund, which has warned that up to 100,000 Afghan children could die this winter, said it had received only half the $36 million sought in an appeal last month.
The WFP also appealed Tuesday for 67,000 tons of food aid, costing $36 million, to help one million Tajiks in remote mountain areas through the winter.
It said the former Soviet republic, which is an important transit route for agencies delivering aid to northeastern Afghanistan, was facing a severe hunger crisis.
``It would be very ironic if all assistance goes to Afghanistan, while all the people here can do is sit and watch the trucks go by,'' Ardag Meghdessian, the WFP's Tajikistan country director, told reporters in the Tajik capital Dushanbe.
``The specter of famine looms for many of these people, who have already depleted their meager savings and have virtually no employment opportunities,'' Meghdessian added in a WFP statement.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said its office in the Taliban-controlled town of Mazar-e-Sharif was looted Monday night.
Two local staff were robbed and beaten and it appeared equipment and vehicles had been stolen, the IOM said. All seven members of the local team have now been moved to other locations, it added.
The strikes on Afghanistan began on October 7 and are aimed at forcing the Taliban to surrender Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect behind last month's attacks on the United States.
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