IRC distributes emergency supplies to Afghans as crisis worsens

News and Press Release
Originally published
March 5, 2001 - The International Rescue Committee is delivering life-saving supplies to tens of thousands of Afghan refugees fleeing famine and continuing warfare. In Pakistan, new arrivals are settling in desolate border camps - about 175,000 have crossed into Pakistan in recent months. The IRC is delivering emergency supplies that were airlifted to Peshawar in February by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The items include tents, blankets, plastic sheeting, and medicine. Deliveries also include donated clothing and cooking supplies.
In addition, the IRC is stepping up its shelter assistance, providing clean water, and constructing hundreds of sanitation facilities to stave off disease. Sigurd Hanson, who directs IRC's 20-year old program for Afghan refugees, says conditions at the camps are incredibly harsh and the situation will worsen as new refugees arrive.

Within Afghanistan conditions are equally dismal. Severe food-shortages brought on by Afghanistan's worst drought in recent history have created a mass migration to the northwestern Herat area, where the IRC was previously assisting repatriated Afghan refugees. "New arrivals are living in squalid conditions outside Herat with little more than old clothing to protect them from subzero temperatures at night," says Gerald Martone, IRC's director of emergency programs. The UN news service IRIN reports that hundreds of people have died from exposure. The IRC is running emergency feeding centers for malnourished children, providing tents, blankets and padded insulation, and building latrines in the areas where the displaced are settling.

"The needs in the region are immense," says IRC's Sigurd Hanson. And in an interview from Peshawar with Time magazine, (Hell Freezes Over, March 5) he said, "Afghans are at the end of their resources." The World Food Program is warning that as many as one million people could face starvation before the winter ends in April, without additional assistance.

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Semir Tanovic, Program Assistant

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