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Archive for Friday, October 12, 2001

U.S. food drops criticized

October 12, 2001

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— The U.S. policy of dropping food rations at the same time that it drops bombs on Afghanistan is drawing sharp criticism from humanitarian aid officials, who warn that the program could wind up killing people it is intended to help.

The United States says it is air dropping between 35,000 and 37,000 daily food rations from military cargo planes that began flying when the U.S. and British bombing campaign on Afghanistan began Sunday. As of Thursday, a Pentagon spokeswoman said more than 137,000 of the yellow-packaged rations had been dropped.

International aid organization officials say, however, that about 5 million Afghans are in danger of starvation because the nation's borders are sealed and food supplies are diminishing by the day meaning that only a tiny percentage of the hungry are receiving the U.S. food.

With so many people still desperate for food, they can be expected to take enormous risks to reach areas where American airdrops of food are occurring including crossing mine fields where the rations might have fallen. Even before the airdrops began, 40 to 100 Afghans were killed each week by mines and other explosives littering the countryside after 22 years of war.

"I have seen figures that as many as 7 million mines are still on the ground in Afghanistan," said Alex Renton, a representative in Pakistan of the aid organization Oxfam International. "People might be rushing into heavily mined areas."

Stephanie Bunker, a spokeswoman for the U.N. coordinator's office for Afghanistan, complained that the United States is not sharing information with international aid organizations about where the food rations are being dropped.

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