U.N. expert: U.S. food drops in Afghanistan will harm future aid efforts
GENEVA (AP) – A U.N. adviser on food policy criticized the U.S. food drops over Afghanistan on Monday, saying they endanger civilian lives and put future humanitarian operations at risk.
Jean Ziegler, a sociology professor and former Swiss lawmaker, also urged a halt to the bombing, saying airstrikes are making it almost impossible for international agencies to deliver large amounts of aid to Afghans, and time is running short.
”Winter is coming in two weeks and aid convoys won’t be able to reach people in Afghanistan,” Ziegler said.
Four American cargo jets based in Germany dropped some 70,000 packets of food over Afghanistan late Sunday and early Monday, stepping up the pace of the humanitarian airdrops.
The C-17 planes have now dropped a total of about 280,000 packets in the week since the start of the operation, which coincided with the start of the U.S.-led airstrikes, said Master Sgt. Randy Mitchell, a spokesman for U.S. Air Force Europe at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
He declined to specify in what region of Afghanistan the latest rations were dropped. Initial aid flights involved two planes, but that was increased to four in missions Friday and Sunday.
Ziegler said there is no way to control where the food packets land, making the airdrops not only ineffective but also dangerous for residents of one of the world’s most heavily mined countries.
”To carry out a proper aid drop you have to set a perimeter and clear mines from the drop area,” Ziegler told reporters.
Ziegler, who reports to a U.N. agency on world food policy, echoed aid groups that have said the food drops could endanger future aid efforts by undermining the neutral image of humanitarian organizations.
”Humanitarian action has been annexed by the anti-terrorist coalition. This is a catastrophe for aid organizations worldwide,” said Ziegler, who is known in Switzerland for strong statements.
Meanwhile, Russia has stepped up aid to Afghan refugees along the border with Tajikistan. Russia has flown some 90 tons of food, 320 large tents, 6,000 blankets and 10 tons of medicine this month to Tajikistan in order to ease the plight of Afghan refugees, the Interfax news agency reported Monday.
Russia is also loading up a 78-car train bound for Tajikistan with tents, stoves, electric generators, food, warm clothes, soaps and disinfectants, Interfax reported.
”The international coalition’s anti-terrorist operation has a significant humanitarian component,” Yuri Vorobyov, first deputy emergencies minister, told Interfax on Sunday. ”A large-scale program to support the Afghan population has been developed in Russia.”
The number of refugees on islands in the Pyandzh River, which separates Tajikistan from Afghanistan, is estimated at between 6,000 and 8,000.
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