Tags: The | War | Against | Cold | and | Hunger | Afghanistan

The War Against Cold and Hunger In Afghanistan

Sunday, 06 January 2002 12:00 AM

However, Natsios advised, there are remote areas where pockets of need likely remain. "I want to say clearly, on the record, that we are not assured that every single person is being fed now. We know every region is being fed and that we have met our goals.

"This was the most extraordinary, complicated and dangerous aid effort in terms of its size and volume and speed that the World Food Program has run in its 40 years of history. They have never moved this much food in one month in any other emergency in the world," Natsios added.

According to Natsios, of the 209,000 metric tons of food that has gone into Afghanistan since the beginning of the war, 76 percent has been successfully moved from the warehouses and distributed at the village and neighborhood level.

Natsios credited the food distribution success to local Afghan staff hired through the Voice of America who file one radio story a day on humanitarian efforts in different parts of Afghanistan.

USAID has distributed over 5,000 radios that allow Afghans to hear special broadcast bulletins concerning food distribution, security, health care and other information relevant to displaced people.

"People need to know what they have a right to get in terms of humanitarian assistance," Natsios explained.

"If a food delivery has been made to Herat and everybody is supposed to get 10 kilograms of rations and they are getting two and they hear this report that they are supposed to be getting ten, there is going to be a little problem in the city because people are going to be very angry that the food has not been delivered to them as it is supposed to be."

Natsion said the Afghan people have been very aggressive about asking their leaders why what they are supposed to be getting is not arriving.

"We have a very high level of confidence in almost all areas. There are a couple of areas where we have had some problems with local commanders. It is mostly the militias that have caused problems in a couple of areas. But the biggest problem right now in terms of distribution is in the greater Kandahar area. That remains highly insecure," Natsios said.

Natsios also credits the Afghan people for the success in food distribution, citing as an example the International Rescue Committee that has 1,400 local Afghan staff.

"We think that is a very good sign that a very dedicated group of people remain in Afghanistan to now help begin the reconstruction of the country, people who have a commitment to stay in the country because they stayed in the worst of it, during a war," Natsios said.

USAID is providing wool blankets and quilts; shelter kits, plastic sheeting and winterized tents; distributing mattresses, clothes, stoves, cooking sets, firewood, coal, lanterns and water containers.

According to Natsios, a French-based NGO has rebuilt 70,000 houses for about 400,000 people in northern Afghanistan.

Such efforts to rebuild or winterize homes are being made in anticipation of returning displaced persons, said Alan Kreczko, acting assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

"There are some refugees returning to Afghanistan already," Kreczko noted. "I think that is an indicator of both the improved security situation inside Afghanistan and the success that there has been in delivering assistance inside Afghanistan. But in terms of substantial, substantial refugee flows, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees is not encouraging it right now and I think we would not expect to see it in very substantial numbers until spring."

Some statistics and facts cited by Natsios on how the $320 million in aid to Afghanistan pledged by President Bush has been utilized to date:

The United States provided 80 percent of all food aid to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) for Afghanistan last fiscal year, and already more than 50 percent this year.

Additionally, medical kits and funds for health centers and mobile clinics have been distributed. Public heath education and programs on hygiene, obstetrics, maternal, childcare and malnutrition are being sponsored.

Trained personnel have been hired to conduct educational outreach on basic health and nutrition, especially to expectant mothers.

Commodities have been airlifted from Pakistan and Italy to ensure there was no break in the Central Asian pipelines into Afghanistan. Vehicles -- some equipped with snowplows — have been purchased to speed the delivery of supplies into villages.

Funds to upgrade and rebuild roads, especially to markets, and repair and reconstruct bridges have been released.

Wells are being drilled, and irrigation and water-supply systems rebuilt.

Large quantities of special varieties of seeds have been distributed to farmers to plant in winter to prevent serious food shortages next year.

USAID is also funding "food for work" and "food for cash" programs that enable people to have their nutritional needs met, increase their family income, while helping to rebuild their country.

And all those radios are broadcasting information about a 90-day effort to immunize 9 million Afghan children against measles.

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However, Natsios advised, there are remote areas where pockets of need likely remain. I want to say clearly, on the record, that we are not assured that every single person is being fed now. We know every region is being fed and that we have met our goals. This was the...
Sunday, 06 January 2002 12:00 AM
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