AMID CHAOS, UNICEF KEEPS SUPPLIES ROLLING INTO AFGHANISTAN
Winter Relief for 1.25 Million People Has Arrived; Funds Moving Slower
ISLAMABAD / GENEVA / NEW YORK, 12 October 2001 - Despite logistical hurdles and ongoing military operations, the United Nations Children's Fund said today it continues to truck relief supplies into Afghanistan in a concerted effort to reach as many children as possible before the arrival of winter leaves roads impassable. UNICEF warned that only a month or so remains to deliver the needed aid.
A children's winter convoy organized by UNICEF in Iran arrived in the western Afghan town of Herat on Friday, delivering medicine, blankets, water supplies and other survival items to a large population of displaced families. A convoy from Quetta (Pakistan) was also moving Friday in an effort to cross the border and reach Afghan children in the south and east. A UNICEF convoy from Turkmenistan arrived in northern Afghanistan earlier in the week. In total, eight UNICEF convoys have entered Afghanistan in recent days.
Further supplies are being purchased in the region or airlifted from the UNICEF hub in Copenhagen, with flights expected to arrive today in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Convoys to get the latest deliveries into Afghanistan are being organized from each of the countries that neighbour Afghanistan.
In the past two weeks UNICEF has delivered relief supplies capable of serving the complex emergency needs of 1.25 million Afghan children and women. UNICEF's convoys have included, among other things:
UNICEF said trucking relief supplies now is crucial to saving lives in the months ahead.
"We're quite concerned about how little time remains before winter arrives in full," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. "We've got basically one month left to purchase and deliver twice as much relief as we've already sent in. Time is not on our side. We all have to move as fast as possible."
Bellamy said that funds were equally urgent, noting that only one-third of UNICEF's emergency appeal for $36 million had been met so far. "We can't do what's needed without immediate funding," Bellamy said. "Every contribution helps."
UNICEF said that hard data on the number of children who perished during last year's harsh winter is not available, noting that information-gathering systems are weak and that a census has not been completed in Afghanistan since 1978.
But anecdotal information suggests a grim prospect if sufficient relief supplies do not reach the displaced and drought-affected populations who are most at-risk. In a single displaced persons camp last winter, UNICEF recorded the deaths of more than 100 children due to exposure. It was just one of hundreds of similar camps around the country.
UNICEF also noted that during most winters, many of Afghanistan's secondary roads become impassable. While a few main corridors remain open, rural populations in smaller towns and villages cannot be reached by supply convoys for long stretches. Hence the urgency of making as many relief deliveries as possible in the course of the next few weeks.
The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has been a long time in the making, UNICEF noted. More than 20 years of war, three years of severe drought, years of human rights abuses and the displacement of more than 1 million people have all taken a heavy toll. One in every four Afghan children dies before the age of five.
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For further information, please contact:
Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media Section, New York
Wivina Belmonte, UNICEF Media Section, Geneva
Gordon Weiss, UNICEF Media, Islamabad
UNICEF is an international non-profit organization created by the United Nations in 1946 to assist children and women recover in the wake of World War II. Its mission was later broadened to address the urgent needs of children throughout the developing world. Today UNICEF is present in more than 160 countries, helping children improve their chances of survival and grow to adulthood in health, peace and dignity.
UNICEF generates its entire income from the voluntary donations of caring individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.