News Release

Interviews Available: “Millions Still Face Starvation”

JIM JENNINGS
President of Conscience International, a humanitarian aid organization, Jennings was in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan this May and will soon return to resume humanitarian work. He said today: “The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is far from over — millions still face starvation and disease. The sudden expansion of Northern Alliance territories, although opening the possibility of deliveries from the north, actually stopped the food convoys from Pakistan and Iran for several days because truck drivers are reluctant to travel into a militarily volatile situation…. Meanwhile, the humanitarian effort is losing precious days, a critical factor because of the onset of winter. For every day lost now, some people will die down the line.”

SARAH ZAIDI, ROGER NORMAND
Currently in Pakistan, Zaidi is research director of the Center for Economic and Social Rights. She said today: “The biggest obstacle to the relief effort is now posed by U.S. partners. Northern Alliance warlords have sabotaged supply routes inside Afghanistan, while Pakistan and other neighboring countries continue to seal their borders and prevent desperate people from reaching food and safety. Rather than seeking to score PR points, the U.S. military should pressure its allies to allow free movement to Afghans and to UN and private relief agencies. Ensuring that thousands of Afghans do not starve to death this winter is both a moral imperative and a human rights obligation for all parties who have contributed to the crisis — including the United States.” CESR’s executive director Normand said today: “The Geneva Conventions and Red Cross regulations mandate that relief aid be neutral, impartial and motivated solely by humanitarian concerns. But so far the U.S. military has viewed the food crisis in Afghanistan — which our bombing helped create — as a domestic PR opportunity. Independent relief agencies have condemned our military policy of dropping food into heavily-mined areas as not only ineffective and dangerous, but also a distraction from the unglamorous but crucial work of distributing the huge amounts of staple goods necessary to feed millions of hungry people.”
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ERWIN VAN’T LAND
Spokesperson for Doctors Without Borders (which has 30 international aid workers inside Afghanistan), Erwin van’t Land is in Islamabad. He said today: “Humanitarian work should be carried out by civilian agencies and should be completely independent of military considerations…. The situation deteriorated during the past two months of bombing, as large parts of the Afghan population dependent on international aid for survival did not receive it.”
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JOHN DAVISON
Spokesperson for Christian Aid, Davison recently arrived in London from Afghanistan. He said today: “The main routes we had managed to establish were coming in through Pakistan and lately virtually nothing is getting in — I believe only a single convoy got in yesterday…. Soon it will get to the point that the trucks won’t go out at all because of fears of getting stuck in the snow…. Everyone is glad that the Taliban have mostly lost power but the recent developments have demonstrated the lifesaving importance of the pause in the bombing that we and six other major international aid agencies had called for — our call went unheeded and now we face this crisis. In the Western and Central Highlands where we carry out most of our work, about 80 percent of the population is very vulnerable…. Food is very short and people are trying desperately to get out and they have no means of transportation. That’s hundreds of thousands of people facing starvation.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167