Short claims Afghan aid effort is in danger unless countries provide cash they have promised

War on terrorism: Refugees
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Clare Short warned that the international aid effort for Afghan refugees was in serious danger because several countries had failed to pay up the cash they had promised.

In an emergency statement to the House of Commons, the International Development Secretary said that of the $700m (£500m) pledged for the UN appeal for the country, only $70m had been received to date.

Ms Short's department has arranged some £15m to help Pakistan cope with the crisis on top of the £36m UK aid effort for the whole region.

But she made clear that, while many nations had offered large sums to the aid effort, only a handful had actually delivered on their promises. "We urge other donors to turn pledges to the UN appeal quickly into actual payments. Of the $600m requested, over $700m has been pledged but only some $70m has so far been received," she told MPs.

"Although immediate needs are covered, unless pledges are received soon, ongoing operations will be hampered."

Ms Short said that the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan was "fragile", but repeated her stance that a pause in the US-led bombing would not help. "It is not the case that a pause in the bombing would solve these problems. Indeed, a pause would simply encourage the Taliban to harass humanitarian supplies more than at present to prevent further military action," she said.

Ms Short confirmed that the international community was looking at air drops and opening new land routes from neighbouring countries.

Caroline Spelman, for the Tories, criticised Ms Short for cancelling her appearance before the Commons Select Committee on International Development yesterday when the subject of the interview was changed.

Jenny Tonge, Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for international development, said she was delighted that aid agencies were considering air drops.