Afghanistan - Gullam Jainani has weathered two bitter winters as a refugee
living under a plastic tarp in the Panjshir Valley, where four feet of
snow is not uncommon. He is not looking forward to the onset of another
place is safe from battles, so we don't worry about the war," said
Jainani, whose family was displaced from areas north of Kabul in 1999 by
fighting between Taliban and opposition forces. "But we do worry
about the winter. We're worried that if the international organizations
don't help us, we'll die."
for Jainani, several humanitarian organizations distributed food to the
10,500 refugees in and around Anawa last week, providing some cushion
against the coming winter. But hundreds of thousands of other Afghans
aren't so lucky.
organizations warn that the U.S. bombing campaign launched Oct. 7 has
disrupted distribution of aid to Afghans caught in war zones. Some
agencies have asked for a suspension of air strikes to allow aid flows to
the Panjshir Valley, aid agencies managed to position supplies before
early winter snows blocked the only overland route through the towering
Hindu Kush mountains. But if the war intensifies or the winter becomes
worse than forecast, humanitarian needs could outstrip those supplies.
difficult to predict," said Pierre-Andre Junod, a representative of
the International Committee for the Red Cross, one of the only agencies
operating in this area under control of anti-Taliban forces. "If
there is fighting and people are displaced or more displaced people from
Kabul come here, then you could have real problems."
deliveries were initially disrupted when the Taliban kicked out
international relief workers after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the
United States. Since the bombs began falling, the Taliban has raided the
warehouses of humanitarian organizations and confiscated equipment and
World Health Organization on Friday said it fears the winter could lead to
epidemics of pneumonia, measles, and water-borne illness such as typhoid.
"There is a major risk of epidemics," Afghanistan coordinator
Mohamed Jama told journalists in Geneva.
Red Cross had delivered only half the food and medicine it planned to send
to 900,000 people in battle-weary Ghor province when the Sept. 11 attacks
were able to help out about half the people, but the rest of them, it will
be very difficult to help," Junod said. "We fear the
Saturday, the Red Cross planned to position food and medicine for half a
million people in countries around Afghanistan that could be distributed
in short order. UNICEF, likewise, last week sent 40 tons of biscuits,
dried milk, medication and hygiene packs to a warehouse in Termez,
Uzbekistan, on the border with Afghanistan.
problem is not a shortage of food and medicine for a nation of 20 million
people that has suffered from two decades of civil war and three years of
drought, but the inability of aid agencies to move the supplies to their
World Food Program, which resumed food deliveries to Northern Alliance
territory after a hiatus following the terrorist attacks, projects that
400,000 people are already suffering acute food shortages in four
north-central provinces and 1.3 million will have little to no food by the
end of December.
the British aid agency that has called for the U.S. government to suspend
bombing, said the failure of the international community to deliver enough
has left hundreds of thousands suffering.
some areas of acute need, the bombing and the increased fighting from the
Taliban and Northern Alliance has added to a climate of fear that has made
many truck drivers and aid workers too frightened to work," Oxfam
Wolfowitz, the U.S. deputy secretary of defense, told radio reporters in
Washington on Friday that the U.S. military would use Ramadan to increase
its supply of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan through a land bridge to
Mazar-e Sharif, the northern city that guerrillas reportedly captured
reported rapid collapse of the Taliban's control over much of northern
Afghanistan will probably open up that area to relief workers. The anti-Taliban
Northern Alliance has said that it will open up access to the north from
Uzbekistan, allowing aid to reach some of the most remote regions in
convoys are already poised in Termez, Uzbekistan, to cross the Amu Darya
River into Afghanistan.
Red Cross said it was uncomfortable with predictions from some
humanitarian organizations that thousands of Afghans would starve to
death. "Afghans are very resourceful, though 450,000 people in Ghor
province are very much at risk," Junod said.
the Panjshir Valley, where snow high in the Hindu Kush mountains has
already blocked the only road access to the Northern Alliance stronghold,
the Red Cross is still attempting to send some medical supplies across the
15,000-foot Anjuman Pass, even by horseback.
French relief group ACTED - Agency for Technical Cooperation - is trying
to keep the pass open until the end of December to continue shipping U.N.
food into the Panjshir, but its attempts to plow the road will eventually
be overwhelmed by nature. The pass often lies under 15 feet of snow by
December and is always impassable, even by horseback, by the end of the
Red Cross is concerned about distributing too much relief too soon,
attracting refugees from Kabul as well as leaving itself unprepared should
the war escalate and needs increase.
we distribute the blankets now or do we hold on and wait?" Junod
said. "If we distribute them now we might not have enough later if
there is a big need. If we hold on to them, we might end up with a
warehouse full of blankets."
places such as the Anawa camp - one of many refugee camps that formed
after a Taliban offensive in 1999 - the residents are eager for all the
aid they can get.
have no food, no jobs, no land," Jainani said. "We sold most of
the things we brought with us so we could survive."
week each family received 200 pounds of rice from the Red Cross and 10
pounds of sugar and 15 pounds of cooking oil from ACTED.
residents traded some of the commodities in the bazaar for items they
needed - soap, fuel, clothing, shoes, blankets.
"We are suffering," Jainani said, "but the best thing you can send us is the U.S. military" to oust the Taliban from their villages 50 miles from here, so they can go home.