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Press Release

UNICEF Rushes Relief Supplies to Central Asia
In Response to Growing Crisis

First of Six Humanitarian Relief Flights Heads to Turkmenistan

GENEVA / NEW YORK, 21 September 2001 - The United Nations Children's Fund is airlifting urgently needed relief supplies into the Afghanistan region this weekend in the first of six planned relief flights aimed at easing the region's ongoing humanitarian crisis.

For more on UNICEF's role in the Afghanistan crisis

The first flight, carrying more than $130,000 of critical medical supplies, tarps, water purification tablets and other relief items, departs from UNICEF's supply hub in Copenhagen this weekend, headed for Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan sits on the northwest border of Afghanistan and is one of four countries in which UNICEF is positioning supplies should large numbers of Afghans seek refuge across national borders.

It's going to take a lot to keep Afghan children alive through the next several months.

Carol Bellamy,
Executive Director, UNICEF

The shipment includes enough basic medical supplies to serve a population of 100,000 people for three months.

"The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has been developing for a long time," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. "Three years of drought, more than 20 years of war, and the ongoing displacement of 1 million people is now being compounded by the onset of winter. It's going to take a lot to keep Afghan children alive through the next several months."

Bellamy added that some 70 per cent of the population most at risk - as many as 7.5 million people overall - are children and women. Nearly 20 per cent are children under five.

Copyright UNICEF ACO/Ahmed Massoud
Two Afghan children waiting to receive food in one of the camps for internally displaced persons about 15 kilometers west of the Herat city .
Press releases on the Afghanistan crisis

UNICEF said it has more than $3 million worth of relief supplies in the pipeline to help children in urgent need of humanitarian support in Afghanistan and neighboring countries. The supplies will be shipped over the next several days as the situation requires. Additional emergency items valued at $750,000 have been pre-positioned in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. UNICEF's overall winterization campaign for Afghan children and women is expected to cost $14 million.

Among the items in the 33-tonne shipment this weekend:

  • Emergency medical supplies sufficient to help 100,000 people for 3 months
  • 26,000 family-size water containers
  • 100,000 sachets of oral re-hydration salts to combat diarrheal disease
    150,000 water purification tablets
  • tarpaulin and rope for temporary shelters

UNICEF said these commitments were just the beginning of its support for the humanitarian relief effort, which UNICEF staff in the region have been planning for several months in anticipation of a difficult winter. Drought, hunger and disease remain the greatest challenges - now made more difficult by access problems and shifting populations.

Bellamy said UNICEF is working closely with other UN agencies and aid organizations to provide relief, especially in light of significant movements of population over the last few days. She said that UNICEF would focus its energies and resources on keeping children alive and well, including immunization efforts, nutritional supplements, basic medical supplies, clean water and emergency education materials for the displaced.

As with all other international humanitarian organizations, UNICEF has withdrawn its international staff from Afghanistan. They are presently directing the UNICEF relief effort from Islamabad. UNICEF's caring and dedicated national staff of 70 is still operating inside Afghanistan and is coordinating with the national staffs of other UN agencies.

* * *

For further information, please contact:

Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, New York (1-212) 326-7261
e-mail: aironside@unicef.org
Gordon Weiss, UNICEF Media, Islamabad (UNICEF Afghanistan)
(92-300) 856-6235
Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Media, Geneva (41-22) 909-5509
wbelmonte@unicef.org

Speeches and Press releases on Afghanistan and region