Aid agencies call for pause in bombing

 CAFOD has joined a group of agencies calling for the bombing of Afghanistan to be paused to allow food to be delivered in safety and in sufficient quantities to sustain people through winter. The call by CAFOD, Oxfam International, Islamic Relief, Christian Aid, TearFund and ActionAid comes 48 hours after a missile exploded a few hundred metres from a UN World Food Program depot in Kabul. A convoy of 250 tonnes of food being loaded at the time was to have gone to an Oxfam distribution site in Hazarajat. This would have been the first food into the Oxfam Hazarajat project since September 11. The agencies said that labourers and truckers were becoming increasingly afraid to load or unload food, to drive deep into Afghanistan, or to stay overnight in Afghan towns and cities. This series of events has significantly affected the ability of agencies to carry out their work. "It is evident now that agencies cannot, in reasonable safety, get food to hungry Afghan people," said CAFOD's Director, Julian Filochowski, "We've reached the point where it is simply unrealistic for us to do what we need to do in Afghanistan. Food is running out, the borders are closed, we can't contact our local partners inside Afghanistan and time's almost run out." "We have 1000 tonnes of food stuck in Quetta in Pakistan," said Islamic Relief director Dr Hany el Banna. "It is enough for 50,000 people but we need 60 trucks and we cannot find truckers to take it in because of their fears." "Our partners are managing to get small quantities in but it is nowhere near enough," said Nick Guttmann, emergencies manager for Christian Aid. The aid agencies need public guarantees from all parties that military forces will not target or impede aid convoys. The call extends to the Northern Alliance, the US and UK-led alliance, and the Taliban, which must drop additional charges on aid convoys, and allow aid workers to monitor the aid effort and resume communications. The agencies say that a pause in the bombing now gives the best hope of averting a humanitarian crisis on a large scale: * 400,000 people are thought to be already having to survive on wild vegetation and essential livestock; * Two million people do not have enough food aid to last the winter, and of those, half-a-million people will be cut off by snow by mid November; * Millions more are on the move and we just do not know the scale of their need. The UN says 5.5million people are short of food; * UN food stocks within Afghanistan are now down to just two weeks' supply (9,000 tonnes). "We just don't know how many people may die if the bombing is not suspended and the aid effort assured. We do know that the Afghans are an extremely resilient people who will do all that it takes to survive. But if nothing changes, there will be huge loss of life and unspeakable suffering this winter," Barbara Stocking said.

Share this story