FEEDING AFGHANISTAN - Even before the war on terrorism, the Afghan people were starvinggreenspun.com : LUSENET : Current News - Homefront Preparations : One Thread
Feeding Afghanistan Even before the war on terrorism, the Afghan people were starving. by Claudia Winkler 10/30/2001
WINTER IS COMING once again to an Afghanistan at war, and what the bureaucrats call a "complex humanitarian disaster" is unfolding. As news accumulates of relief warehouses accidentally bombed and refugees fleeing U.S. strikes, some would have us believe that the American campaign is the principal cause of the country's misery. A useful corrective is a glance at relief agencies' assessment of the country's course before September 11.
It was heading toward famine. This time last year, the United States re-declared Afghanistan a "complex human disaster," as it has every year since 1979; and United Nations agencies predicted that at least half Afghan population would be drought-affected by now, some facing starvation. The U.N. World Food Program was forced to more than double its emergency aid, over 80 percent of which is provided by the United States. Afghanistan acquired the dubious distinction of being second only to North Korea in the level of food aid it received.
Politics has played a role in this, as in all modern famines. In a recent report--dated September 6, 2001--the U.S. Agency for International Development noted "the deteriorating relationship between international relief agencies and the Taliban that is making it increasingly difficult for these agencies to address humanitarian needs." The case of the eight international aid workers arrested August 5 and charged with proselytizing received considerable media attention (they are still in custody). A few weeks later, on August 31, the Taliban shut down and deported the staff of two additional non-governmental organizations, International Assistance Mission and Serve. Since September 11, such interference has greatly increased; last week, for example, the New York Times reported that the Taliban had confiscated some 6,000 tons of World Food Program food and hijacked about 90 U.N. vehicles.
Andrew Natsios, administrator of AID, notes that almost all of those severely threatened by hunger are in ethnic groups targeted by the Taliban: Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Hazaras. Those last, Shiite Muslims, live in the high plateaus where conditions soon will be arctic--and where the Taliban, according to AID, has used "scorched-earth tactics" and extended food blockades.
Now, with bombs dropping, the danger of delivering relief supplies in Afghanistan has grown, as has the cost. Natsios promises a substantial airlift, should it come to that. At this point, all foreign workers have been expelled, smugglers must pay higher bribes to whoever controls the roads, and looting and banditry are reported to be rising. As if that weren't impediment enough to the relief effort, the Pentagon cites "intelligence from several sources" to suggest the Taliban might poison relief supplies to turn people against the United States.
More avoidable, one would like to think, is the squabble over whether American grain or Central Asian grain transported by locals should be sent to Afghanistan. Surely the determination should be made purely on the basis of usefulness to the U.S. cause--both expeditiously feeding the hungry and winning the war.
-- Anonymous, October 29, 2001