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USAID Administrator on Humanitarian Aid to Afghanistan

BG0111E | Date: 2001-11-01


By Andrew Natsios

(The author is the U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator)

Let the world be clear -- the United States and other donor nations have worked to feed the Afghan people since long before the Taliban regime took control of Afghanistan -- and the U.S. is committed to helping the Afghan people long after the Taliban pass away. In the last year, prior to September 11, the U.S. government provided $174 million in humanitarian aid to the Afghan people.

The United States, partner nations, and international aid agencies are engaged in the critical task of providing for a population now on the brink of starvation. The United States alone provides 80 percent of all food aid entering Afghanistan. We are committed to our role as the lead donor of food aid to the Afghan people.

Even before the current crisis, civil war and Taliban misrule had already created 3.5 million refugees. Three years of drought threatens as many as seven million people with famine.

Let the world be clear -- the Taliban's actions in stonewalling relief efforts, is making the delivery of life-saving assistance more and more difficult. NGOs are now reporting increasingly persistent Taliban interference with international aid distribution. Doctors Without Borders reported that several of its compounds in Mazar-e-Sharif and Kandahar were looted of medical and nutritional aid, in the process cutting off six Afghan provinces from sorely needed assistance. The International Organization for Migration also reported that its offices in Mazar-e-Sharif have been looted, its vehicles stolen and its local staff robbed and beaten.

Human Rights Watch reports attacks by the Taliban on other aid agencies. The World Food Program reported October 16 that the Taliban seized two of their six warehouses, storing almost 7,000 metric tons of grain meant for distribution throughout Afghanistan. While the WFP has regained control of its warehouses for now, there is no doubt that the Taliban will continue to disrupt relief efforts.

NGOs, whose food aid comes largely from the United States, are persisting in efforts to deliver food and medicines into critical Afghan areas. Today, 165,000 metric tons of food, most of it from the United States, are now en route to Afghanistan, significantly boosting the 48,000 tons now in the region.

We must persist in our efforts because the Afghan population is at grave risk. The most vulnerable include small children, pregnant women and the elderly. The United States and its coalition seek to address the suffering of the Afghan people, and to lift the terrorist scourge that blights the life of the Afghan nation.