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Press Statement

Mules haul relief supplies for children into Afghanistan

Press statement by UNICEF Special Representative to Afghanistan, Mr. Nigel Fisher

28 September, Marriot Hotel, Islamabad

This afternoon in Geneva, the Executive Director of UNICEF, Ms Carol Bellamy, announced an appeal for more than $35 million in special donor support for Afghanistan to confront the quadruple threats of drought, war, displacement and winter.

While UNICEF's humanitarian appeal represents a relatively small portion of the total funding request of UN agencies, it is intended to have a very large impact on the health and survival of children. Of the 7.5 million Afghans who may have to rely on international relief to survive this winter, over two-thirds of them are women and children, and 1.5 million of them are children under the age of five. Even before the 11 September attack on the U.S., we estimated that one in four children born today in Afghanistan could expect to die before their fifth birthday.

For more on UNICEF's role in the Afghanistan crisis

UNICEF will use the funds it receives to provide drugs and medical equipment for women and children and to ensure continued child immunisation, especially against polio - to contain the wider spread of the Afghan strain of the polio wild virus further into neighbouring countries - and against measles, which often reaches epidemic proportions during massive population displacement. Therapeutic feeding for malnourished children, water supply and sanitation, blankets and clothes for children to ward off sub-zero winter temperatures, simple education kits and care for children separated from their families are other priorities.

Perhaps of more immediate interest to you is the fact that tomorrow morning, a UNICEF convoy carrying 200 metric tons of desperately needed emergency aid will depart from Peshawar to Badakhshan in northeastern Afghanistan.

We've been packing this convoy in warehouses in Peshawar for the past two days. It's a convoy of 200 metric tons of supplies, which is an enormous load. It's the largest UN load ever to cross the Shah Shaleem pass, a high mountain avenue to Afghanistan which lies at 4,000 metres, and which is only open for a few months every year. The snows have already started, so it may well be the case that this is the last convoy that we will be able to send through the pass this year. We have been using this route for the last three years.

The convoy will consist of 100 tons of emergency supplies of clothes and shoes for children, and family kits (soap, washing soap, kettle, plates, buckets, blankets) as well as 6 metric tons of UNIMIX, a high protein porridge-like food which is usually used for therapeutic feeding, but which in this case of emergency, can be used by an entire family.

There will also be 90 metric tons of educational materials, enough for 70,000 children, which had been planned for some time, including 13,000 BBC story books in the Dari language.

This is significant, and I want to tell you why.

UNICEF is committed to the return of Afghanistan's children to school, to a life of security and normality. Wherever and whenever we can, UNICEF will be encouraging the re-establishment of this most basic routine in the life of a family, and at the very heart of that routine is the desire of the Afghan people to have their children educated.

Finally, the convoy will include 4 metric tons of paediatric medicines, as well as a small quantity of tents.

The UNICEF convoy will originate from Peshawar on Saturday on nineteen 10-metric ton trucks. Our convoy leader is Ms. Hermione Youngs. It will travel from Peshawar in a broad arc into northern Pakistan for 450 km, before reaching an altitude of 3,000 metres, where the supplies will be transferred to between 50 and 100 4WD vehicles, for the ascent to the Shah Saleem pass.

For the last stage of the trek over the pass, a team of 500 porters will transfer the supplies onto 4,000 donkeys for a two day, 40km journey, down the mountain side, into Afghanistan, and along the floor of the Zeebak plain, where they will change again onto small trucks for the journey to Faizabad, and on to our forward supply positions.

Furthermore, tomorrow at 9.30 at Peshawar airport, we also have the first of our emergency supply flights landing from Copenhagen. On board are emergency health kits, water purification supplies, blankets, and shelter equipment. Another flight with similar items lands in Turkmenabad, southern Turkmenistan, on Sunday evening. Throughout next week we have further flights landing in Iran, and another two flights will be arriving in Quetta within the next week. We see this as just the opening shot in the steadily gathering humanitarian coalition for Afghanistan.

Finally, I just returned from Quetta this morning and visited proposed camp sites on the border near Chaman yesterday afternoon. After agreement with UNHCR and a meeting with the Governor in Quetta this morning, UNICEF expects to coordinate water supply, immunization and water supply activities in the camps near Chaman, as and when refugees arrive.

***

For further information contact:

Mr. Chulho Hyun, UNICEF Information Office - 920)2213437
Cell. 920) 300 855 1927
Mr. Gordon Weiss, UNICEF Information Office - 920)2213437
Cell 920) 300 856 6235

Liza Barrie, UNICEF Media Section, New York
Tel.: 212-326-7593, lbarrie@unicef.org

Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media Section, New York
Tel: 212-326-7261, aironside@unicef.org

Speeches and Press releases on Afghanistan and region