Aid shipments 'on target', says UN agency

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The Independent Online

The World Food Program's shipments into Afghanistan are now large enough to feed the six million hungry people there, the United Nations agency's director said today.

WFP executive director Catherine Bertini said the agency had yesterday, for the first time, hit its target of getting 52,000 metric tons of food into the war–torn county each month.

"We're winning the struggle to deliver food into Afghanistan," Ms Bertini said in a statement. "We had been facing major challenges over the past weeks in terms of insecurity on the ground and the onset of winter, but we've pulled out all the stops and we're managing to push the large quantities of food needed into Afghanistan."

Aid workers from the UN and other groups have begun to move back into northern Afghanistan since the Taliban regime fled the area last week. The retreat also has opened up new supply routes for trucks and barges.

"Whenever security conditions stabilize enough to enable aid workers to go in, WFP seizes this window of opportunity and sends in as much food as possible," Ms Bertini said.

She said workers has continued delivering small amounts of food to the hard–hit north of Afghanistan despite instability there, and the WFP plans to boost its operations in the region.

She said it was crucial to ensure that food shipments are not disrupted by safety hazards and the shifting lines of battle in areas now controlled by the opposition northern alliance and local warlords.

"Even with sufficient food stocks inside the country, it is always difficult to ensure that the most vulnerable rather than the strongest are receiving food aid," Ms Bertini said. "Security and weather conditions this winter will play a major role in determining our success in reaching all of the six million hungry Afghans."

The WFP has dramatically increased the amount of food it ships into Afghanistan over the past four weeks, mostly thanks to increased trucking capacity and use of routes from Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, she said.

The agency is now using 2,000 trucks to deliver food, clearing snow on some mountain roads and airlifting supplies from Pakistan to Turkmenistan.

About a million hungry Afghans live in areas that could soon be cut off by snow, and Ms Bertini said they had received about 40 per cent of the 55,000 tons they'll need to get through the winter.

The WFP has received about $162 million of the $257m in requested from donors last month, she added.