UN aid convoys face problems in Afghanistan

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Kabul, Oct 30 (UNI) The United Nations has urged Afghanistan government to stop attacks on the humanitarian aid convoys, saying the access to the affected areas has become ''very difficult''.

The United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan said the aid agencies had a short window of six weeks to reach food supplies to people before the onset of winter.

Addressing a press conference here yesterday, the UN Secretary General's Special representative Tom Koenigs said the next six weeks would be crucial.

Around 400,000 Afghans seriously affected by natural disasters and another 100,000 displaced in the war-torn country needed food, medical supplies and shelter materials.

Mr Koenigs said the security situation continued to complicate efforts to reach the assistance.

''Insurgent and criminal gangs have killed 34 humanitarian workers so far this year,'' he said, adding that 76 aid workers have been abducted, 45 of the humanitarian facilities and 55 humanitarian convoys have been attacked and looted.

''At least 78 districts around the country are now rated extremely risky for UN aid workers -- making access very difficult,'' he added.

Koenigs said the attacks on humanitarian aid must stop.

''They are attacks against Afghans most in need. They are violating the most basic principles of charity. We need and want humanitarian space to reach these communities before the winter sets in,'' he said.

The director of World Food Program Rick Corsino, which is entrusted with delivering food aid said the number of attacks on humanitarian convoys had gone up.

''To give you an example, in all of 2006, we had five incidents against WFP vehicles, and so far, in the first ten months of this year, we have had thirty. In the majority of these incidents, food was taken - it was looted and so far we have lost something close to 1,000 tons of food, equal to about three quarters of a million US dollars,'' he said.

However, Mr Koenigs referred to the recent success with the Peace Day campaign in September during which the humanitarian agencies were able to carry out polio vaccination in some of the most difficult and insecure areas.

Corsino emphasized that time was running out for the aid delivery.

''We need to do this very quickly.Not only are these threats against our vehicles delaying our ability to deliver the food, but they are adding a tremendous amount of additional costs.

Our transport rates have gone up between 25 and 50 per cent over the past twelve months, largely because of threats agains vehicles.'' he said.


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