UN calls for end to attacks against aid workers assisting vulnerable Afghans
United Nations officials in Afghanistan have called for an immediate halt to attacks against aid workers trying to assist vulnerable communities with food, medicine and warm clothing amid recent heavy snowfall and a rise in food prices. In addition to assaulting aid convoys, there were three rocket attacks against UN facilities in Afghanistan's western Herat province, and public threats made against UN staff.
"These attacks must stop - they are preventing us from reaching those families who need our help the most," Hassan Elhag, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) office in Herat, told reporters.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) last year lost 410 tons of food - valued at around $350,000 - to attacks on aid convoys and looting by criminal gangs.
Despite difficulties WFP said it had already delivered over 500 tons of food to those families most in need while the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are continuing to deliver warm clothing, shelter and heating to help families cope with frigid temperatures.
By the end of 2007, humanitarian actors in Afghanistan were operating under much tighter security restrictions, owing to insecurity on the ground. According to UNAMA, the restrictions were curtailing the efforts of the UN and its partners to deliver essential supplies to those who need it most during the country's harsh winter season.
"In the coming months we need to reach around 4 million vulnerable Afghan people across the country with over 14,000 tons of essential food," Mr. Elhag stated. "Without safe passage for our staff and convoys these people will suffer."
"We need all parties to recognise that the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people must come first, above fighting and above politics," he added.