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30 Oct 2007 09:26
The United Nations on Monday demanded that the Taliban stop killing aid workers and looting aid convoys so that emergency supplies can reach vulnerable Afghans before the onset of winter.
Tom Koenigs, head of the UN mission to Afghanistan, said 34 aid workers had been killed by the Taliban and criminal gangs and 76 abducted so far this year.
Most of the victims are Afghans, including doctors, mine-clearers and engineers. About 55 aid convoys have been looted.
“Such attacks are a clear violation of international humanitarian law and they must stop,” Koenigs told reporters in Kabul.
“We need all parties to recognise that the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people must come first, above fighting and above politics.”
The aid crisis is a byproduct of wider insecurity.
The conflict is “clearly spreading and in certain areas is intensifying,” said Reto Stocker, head of the International Red Cross in the country. More than 5 300 people have died so far this year.
On Monday the Afghan government said it killed 50 Taliban fighters in southern Uruzgan province, while a suicide bomber in Helmand province killed three civilians and one coalition soldier.
The impact of the violence is spread unevenly around the country. Some large cities and northern areas have enjoyed stability since 2001 and seen improvements in health and education. But in the south and east the humanitarian crisis is rapidly growing. In provinces such as Helmand—where battles between British and Taliban troops can claim more than 100 lives a day—schools are closed, thousands of villagers have fled and aid convoys are regularly looted.
The UN World Food Programme has lost 1 000 tonnes of food aid because of a six-fold increase in attacks on convoys this year, according to its Afghanistan director, Rick Corsino. As a result no aid convoys have moved between Herat in the west and Kandahar in the south for six weeks.
The Afghan education ministry says 400 schools in the south and east are shut because of violence. Taliban fighters have burned down 20 schools in Helmand in the past 15 months.
Corsino estimated the UN has six weeks to rush food to 400 000 people living above the snow line before winter cuts off the roads. Five million Afghans need some form of food assistance, he said. - Guardian Unlimited Â
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