U.N Agencies Prepare for Looming Humanitarian Crisis

Major U.N. agencies, including the U.N. High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP), announced plans Monday to undertake one of the largest humanitarian aid operations in the history of the United Nations. Officials estimate that as many as 1-1.5 million Afghans are expected to cross the Afghan border in coming days and weeks, as they flee their homeland and seek safe harbor in Pakistan and Iran. They would join another 4-5 million Afghan refugees already seeking asylum in those countries.

To deal with the potentially crushing flow of expected refugees, the U.N. will open some 20 new camps, and a team of UNHCR officials have been dispatched to Pakistan to coordinate the efforts. However, the Taliban has locked up U.N communications equipment in Afghanistan and issued a death decree to any aid workers who tried to use communications equipment, such as satellite phones, to communicate with other aid workers inside or outside the country. The WFP’s humanitarian efforts are being further exacerbated by the Taliban’s theft over the weekend of U.N. food supplies from their offices in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. Fortunately, reports received this morning from the World Food Programme indicate the agency, in conjunction with other NGO’s still operating in Afghanistan, will resume limited operation in the northern and western portions of Afghanistan where the agency estimates that without additional food aid, almost 1.6 million Afghans in the northern Afghan regions will run out of food by December.

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World Food Programme, UN Information Center, UNHCR 9/24/01

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