Press briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, UNAMA Spokesman 02 Feb 2003

Today we have a short briefing for you, because we have a guest Dr. Francois Gasse, who is here in Afghanistan for UNICEF and will be talking about the tetanus vaccination campaign.

Security Council briefing

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Lakhdar Brahimi, as you know, is in New York. He briefed the Security Council on Friday. He reviewed developments in the country since early December, when the Council was last briefed.

He told Council members that "the peace process in Afghanistan will need to progress much further before we can safely say that it is irreversible." The challenge for this year is to strengthen and build on the foundations of the state, address the political and security uncertainties, and meet the rising expectations of Afghans, he said. "Their patience to see improvements in their lives will wear thin, sooner rather than later."

He noted that the peace process is not yet secure. However, he also stated that if real progress is made towards meeting the challenges for this year, the peace process will, in time, become irreversible. In order to achieve this, "Afghanistan will need to count on the continuing financial and political commitment of the international community for some time to come."

Regarding the security, Mr. Brahimi said that the in last month the situation in the country has been relatively calm in the sense that there has been no outbreak of major sustained fighting, "but security incidents continue to occur in the country".

For more details on what Mr. Brahimi told the Security Council, we have available the full text of his briefing.

Armed robbery of Demining team in Farah province

Following up on this question of security, I would like to tell you about one incident that is of concern and my colleague Alejandro Chicheri from the World Food Programme will tell you about another one.

A demining team [of six Afghan nationals] from the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA) has been the victims of an armed robbery in Farah province. The incident happened on Monday 27 January between Shindand and Farah as they were traveling back to Farah from Khaki Safed District where they had been working.

At about three o'clock in the afternoon they were stopped in the area of Ab Khorma by about ten men armed with Kalashnikovs who jumped into the back of the pick-up truck and forced them to drive about three kilometres off the main road. No shots were fired.

They were then beaten and robbed of personal possessions, money and some clothing and the armed men kept them there for several hours before driving away in the MAPA vehicle.

The staff began walking on foot towards the main road and found their vehicle stuck in a ravine. They managed to get it out and made their way to Farah road where they received assistance.

The staff was not hurt in the incident.

Independent Refugee Study

The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), an independent research institution, has asked us to let you know about a study they have just released on the massive return of refugees last year.

The report looks at the lessons that can be learnt from the return of nearly two million refugees to Afghanistan in 2002. It calls on the donor community to help slow down the pace of repatriation this year by increasing support to refugee programmes in neighbouring countries and by increasing support for UNHCR's protection work in these countries while continuing to support Afghan reconstruction and security priorities.

We have copies of this independent report available in English and also the executive summary available in Dari.

The study was funded by European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO).

WFP - Alejandro Chicheri, Public Affairs Officer

Car incident at Sheikadab

Last Thursday January 30, at 13:30hrs a WFP Landcruiser was carjacked at Sheikabad (south of Kabul). A road mission composed of two WFP staff, one implementing partner and a government official were stopped by armed gunmen.

The occupants of the vehicle were blind folded and driven into the nearby mountains where they were released unharmed four hours later. The group returned to Kabul and reported the incident at approx 22:30hrs that night. Police forces from the nearby town of Maidar Shar recovered the vehicle on Friday with only the radios missing.

Winter and Distribution Update

The 2002-2003 WFP Vulnerability Analysis Mapping findings identified some 1.3 million vulnerable people living in rural areas usually inaccessible during winter.

As indicated in the Winter Task Force plan, WFP, within its regular programme has pre-positioned 50,000 MT of food.

As of 26 January 2003, WFP has dispatched all planned food commodities to the areas in need and nearly 25,500 MT -- (53 % of total) - had been distributed to the beneficiaries.

The distribution of food commodities to beneficiaries will continue during February 2003 in accordance with distribution plans prepared by the WFP Area Offices and implementing partners.

The winter distributions are part of a larger programmme. Last week nearly 400,000 beneficiaries received nearly 3,300 MT of food commodities through various WFP activities, including:

Food for work/Food for asset creation: 253,500 beneficiaries received 2,535 MT of food.

Food for education: 130,000 beneficiaries received 200 MT of food.

Relief and resettlement of IDPs and refugees: 8,800 beneficiaries received 69 MT of food.

Urban vulnerable bakery projects: 38,300 beneficiaries received 178 MT of food.

Supplementary feeding: 4,630 beneficiaries received 44 MT of food.

Winterisation: WFP has dispatched all planned food commodities. As of 26th January, nearly 25,500 MT, 53 percent of planed food commodities, had been distributed to the beneficiaries.

General distribution: 4,060 beneficiaries received 114 MT of food.

Questions and Answers

Question: Is the UN concerned about the increasing security conditions here?

The Spokesman: Of course we are concerned. I think all of us who live in this country must be concerned about the security conditions. The situation of the country is not yet stable, we have episodes of violence ranging from interfactional fighting to crime, to terrorism and that is of concern. It is also of concern that in our view the perception of the Afghans, common men and women and children is that there is not enough security as they would like to see. Work is happening. You have new plans for the Army, for the Police and that is extremely important. It will not happen from one day to another. In the meantime we have to continue to be vigilant to apply the security measures that we all have as recommendations.