TERRY DIGNAN: In Afghanistan thousands
are fleeing to refugee camps. Few people have suffered more than these.
The Afghans have had to cope with civil war, drought and a regime shunned
by the outside world. Now, as the United States bombs the Taliban, Afghans
are on the move, frightened and hungry. While many in Britain argue against
any let-up in the bombing, others warn there's an urgent need to re-think
GLENYS KINNOCK MEP: The humanitarian crisis is
clearly very serious and I think reaching disaster proportions both inside
Afghanistan and on the border areas and, of course, that is exacerbated
by the prospect of the winter months and the difficulties that that would
entail in terms of being able to deliver the amounts of food that would
MAJOR ERIC JOYCE MP: Stopping the bombing now would
enable the al-Qaeda and bin Laden to regroup and the Taliban to regroup
and that would have obvious implications for the medium to long term, for
the people of Afghanistan and for indeed the people of the developed nations
who may be attacked by them.
DIGNAN: This Birmingham-based charity
is buying food for Afghanistan, thanks partly to money raised from selling
donated clothes. Before September the eleventh more than five million Afghans
relied on the United Nations' World Food Programme. Islamic Relief staff
in Afghanistan report the numbers needing aid are growing. Many people
are trying to escape the bombing even though they have little food to sustain
SAKANDAR ALI: There's been a, a massive
population movement out of the cities. There is no communication systems
in Kandahar city. Again there is no electricity or running water. And generally
people are fleeing. People are afraid, people have seen death.
DIGNAN: Aid agencies like Islamic
Relief argue that millions of Afghans face disease and starvation because
supplies of food have been disrupted by the bombing campaign. Those living
in remote mountainous areas are said to be most at risk - in just two weeks
time the winter snows could cut them off from the outside world. All this
is testing the Government's resolve over its support for the bombing campaign
ALI: Potentially, most
of them will not have enough, because if at the moment we are only sending
in nineteen per cent of what's actually needed, even if we multiply that,
it's certainly still not going to be enough.
DOMINIC NUTT: The bombing and the military
campaign following the September eleventh atrocity has exacerbated the
situation hugely. We cannot easily get lorries into the country to deliver
DIGNAN: The World Food Programme
says Afghanistan needs fifty-two thousand metric tonnes of food aid per
month - that would have meant sending in about one-thousand, seven hundred
tonnes per day in October. Our Government says progress is being made towards
this target. During the week to the twenty-ninth of October, the World
Food Programme dispatched a daily average of one-thousand, four-hundred
and thirty tonnes. But according to Christian Aid, using Food Programme
figures, the average delivery for the whole of October came to just seven-hundred-and-sixty-three
tonnes per day. The charity claims that so great is the accumulated shortfall
that in the next fortnight before winter sets in Afghanistan will need
an average daily delivery of nine-thousand, seven-hundred-and-one tonnes.
As freezing conditions approach, there's little hope of reaching this figure.
KINNOCK: I've looked at the figures
very carefully and seen what the World Food Programme and others are saying,
and it does appear to me that although we are delivering food now, it doesn't
seem to me that we can anticipate meeting the kind of targets that we would
need to meet to get to the people particularly in the more remote areas.
DIGNAN: The United Nations' is
buying more trucks to carry aid into Afghanistan. But the biggest problem
is distributing food to rural areas of the country. While our Government
blames the Taliban, some non-governmental organisations - NGOs - blame
the bombing. The UN's World Food Programme, which is responsible for getting
most of the food into Afghanistan say it's far from easy operating in a
country at war.
CATHERINE BERTINI: First, we don't have any communications
with our staff and, and we have a difficulty in reaching the staff in order
to arrange, arrange programmes for delivery inside Afghanistan. Second
we have very few vehicles inside Afghanistan, and that harms the delivery
also. Third, our NGO partners have the same kind of communications problems
and so without some improved communication we're, we are quite limited.
NUTT: Eighty- five per
cent of Afghans live in rural communities, often unconnected by roads or
any, any form of communication. So it's very very difficult then to drive
lorries at the best of times into the mountains on very, very sketchy mountain
tracks when there, when there are bombs flying around, there's land mines
around, planes flying overhead.
DIGNAN: Time is running out says
the World Food Programme because a hundred-thousand families living in
remote mountainous areas of central and northern Afghanistan could be cut
off when the snows come. The aid agencies say these highland regions need
to stockpile thousands of sacks of food to see people through the winter.
ALI: It must be utmost
priority for us to ensure enough food stocks are sent in to take people
through the winter months, because a lot of these areas will be cut off
during the winter as a result of snow.
NUTT: And from that moment
on you can guess that there will be many villages where there's hunger.
There will be starvation, there will be death and we might be looking at
ghost villages come the spring.
DIGNAN: The United States was much
criticised for dropping food from aircraft. Yet the World Food Programme
is now considering air drops. It's just about the most expensive way of
providing aid - and there's no guarantee it will reach those who most need
BERTINI: If I give you a bag of
food I know it's getting to you but if I drop it from an airplane I, I
do not know who is going to pick it up but I have to target the drops so
that I'm reaching the areas where I know the people are most at risk. So
it is not the first choice or even the third choice option. It's really
the option when if nothing else works.
DIGNAN: At Islamic Relief more
piles of donated clothing are being sorted to raise money for Afghanistan.
Some of these aid agencies are also pushing the demand for a let-up in
the military campaign.
Islamic Relief - and other charities active
in Afghanistan like Oxfam and Christian Aid - want a pause in the bombing
so that more food can be delivered. They believe public opinion is moving
in their favour. Indeed, even amongst those in the Labour Party who support
the war aims there are fears the bombing campaign is impeding the aid effort.
KERRY POLLARD MP: I believe the bombing has to
stop because we're coming up to Ramadan, we're coming up to the winter,
there is not enough food in Afghanistan already and if the passes close
down because of the winter, then no food can get in and people will starve.
KINNOCK: If we don't provide some
kind of period of safety then we won't get food to people and you will
see, many people starving and, and facing enormous need in terrible circumstances
in isolation and without any help from anyone.
DIGNAN: But military experts believe
the Taliban's fighting capability may have been badly hurt by the bombing
campaign. So a pause might be to their advantage.
AIR VICE-MARSHAL TONY MASON: A bombing pause would give the Taliban
the opportunity to repair defences, to move reinforcements around, to re-supply,
to repair air defences, perhaps to reconnect commander control communications,
and it would also of course give the individuals or units of the Bin Laden
organisation an opportunity to move around too, totally freely. Perhaps
to escape, to go into different parts, to lose themselves in different
parts of the country.
DIGNAN: On Friday protestors gathered
at the Department for International Development to plead with the Government
to urge the United States to bring food, not bombs, to Afghanistan. The
minister in charge here, Clare Short, says a pause in the bombing would
be a grave error. Even though the UN now believes that the bombing is an
impediment to supplying food, Clare Short insists the air campaign must
continue. Indeed, she and others in the Labour Party argue that what the
aid agencies, the NGOs, fail to recognise, is that defeating the Taliban
is essential if the Afghan people are to have any hope for the future.
JOYCE: The issue is whether or
not the humanitarian aid in the medium to long-term would be aided and
assisted by a cease to the bombing campaign. I don't believe it would be
and I think the position of the, some of the NGOs is very short-sighted
and may reflect their own interest rather than the humanitarian interest
of the people of Afghanistan.
DIGNAN: The World Food Programme
has just announced another rise in the amount of aid delivered to Afghanistan.
And despite the fears of charities in this country it remains doggedly
optimistic. But another problem is looming - a lack of cash.
BERTINI: The current situation
is that the World Food Programme is about sixty per cent resourced for
the food for the next six months and it is critical that we receive additional
assistance so that we can move, not only move food into the region but
purchase food in the region so that we can get it there even more quickly.
DIGNAN: With millions of Afghans
needing food, a human catastrophe is in the making. Our Government believes
it's in the long-term interests of Afghanistan's people to continue the
bombing to defeat the Taliban. But ministers know that the coalition may
be blamed if the threat of starvation becomes a reality.