U.S. to Consider Humanitarian Aid to Afghan Refugees; Many Fear Worst Is Yet to Come

Hundreds of thousands of Afghans continue to attempt to flee Afghanistan in fear of US retaliation against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. However, the situation is being exacerbated by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan brought on by a 3-year drought, food shortage, border closings, and the Taliban’s repressive regime. The U.N. has confirmed pre-famine conditions in Afghanistan. Some 5.5 million single Afghan women are in need of food. Some have turned to eating grass and animal fodder. About one hundred thousand Afghan refugees are already waiting at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which has been closed since last weekend. Tens of thousands had already fled after September 11 before the borders closed. Some 3.5 million refugees were already in Pakistan with little food, clothing, and shelter. U.N officials estimate that about 75% of Afghan refugees are women and children. Senior official for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Yusuf Hassan declared, “The situation is far worse than it has ever been.”

During the next two weeks, the Senate Foreign Operations Committee will move to increase U.S. humanitarian aid, the world’s largest source, to Afghan refugees. To date the U.S. has contributed $131 million to the Afghan humanitarian crisis and is the largest donor. Other countries have also just announced aid packages for Afghan refugees. Japan pledged $40 million Friday, as well as Australia who has committed $14 million. All aid will be distributed through international human service agencies and international non-governmental organizations, such as the International Red Cross.

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Reuters, 9/22/01; Daily Telegraph, 9/23/01; New York Times, 9/23/01

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