Agency says Afghanistan's neighbours must open borders to avert humanitarian disaster

 Aid agency CAFOD, is warning the international community that their commitment to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan will ring hollow if they do not use their influence to ensure that Afghanistan's neighbours open their borders immediately. Warning that the combination of air strikes and closed borders has left millions of starving Afghan civilians cut off from vital aid supplies, Julian Filochowski, the charity's director said: "We are assured today by both President Bush and Prime Minister Blair that this is a three pronged strategy - military, diplomatic and humanitarian. But where is the humanitarian strategy if aid distribution inside the country is hampered by the air strikes and the borders to neighbouring countries are still closed? Some are suggesting air drops but there is a consensus amongst agencies that dropping food parcels on people is an inefficient and dangerous option that should only be a last resort. "Our partners in Pakistan confirm that their Government is refusing to open the borders because of fears about the long term financial and social impact of a massive influx of Afghan refugees. These fears are completely understandable from a poor country that is already host to millions of Afghan refugees from previous conflicts. We appeal to the leaders of the new international alliance to pledge the kind of long-term funding and support necessary to reassure Pakistan and others that they will have the resources to cope." CAFOD is working with Caritas Pakistan, the local Catholic relief agency, which is gearing up for an influx of refugees.

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