The United Nations has launched an unprecedented operation to prepare for a “massive crisis” in Afghanistan as people scramble to escape feared US-led military strikes.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Peter Kessler told reporters yesterday that an emergencycontingency operation in neighboring Pakistan was the biggest in the agency’s history.
Crisis management specialists and equipment to deal with hundreds of thousands of refugees were continuing to pourinto Pakistan, on Afghanistan’s eastern border, amid reports that more than a million people could try to flee in theevent of US strikes.
Pakistan today reopened a southwestern border crossing point to allow the entry of several thousand refugees.
The U.N. World Food Program decided today to attempt to resume food aid shipments to northern and western Afghanistansuspended after the September 11 attacks in the United States. Yesterday the ruling Taliban shut down the U.N. Afghancommunications network, took over its office in Kandahar and seized 1,400 tons of U.N. food aid, crippling the UN’said operations in the country.
Many international aid officials fear a humanitarian catastrophe is looming in Afghanistan, already one of thepoorest nations on earth, and that the catastrophe would only be worsened by US bombing.
- Yusuf Hassen, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for Afghanistan, speaking from Peshewar.
- Gordon Weiss, UNICEF, in Islamabad.