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Afghans 'dying of hunger'

By Kate Clark, BBC, Saturday 13 October 2001, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK

Jebal-e-Seraj, Afghanistan - The hungriest and poorest Afghans are dying of hunger and cold, aid workers say, at rates far higher than aid agencies consider to be crisis levels.

Among the estimated 10,000 refugees who have fled Taleban attacks on their villages this summer to the high mountains in the centre of Afghanistan, about four people are dying every day.

Local aid workers say about 600 people have already died.

About seven million Afghans are dependent on food aid because of the civil war and three years of severe drought.

Delivery difficult

Afghan roads are still open.

Private traders are managing to truck food to even remote areas, although the poorest cannot afford to buy what is in the bazaars.

But aid agencies are having trouble carrying out food distributions.

Their main supplier, the World Food Programme (WFP), which uses private trucks to transport aid, has largely stopped shipping food around Afghanistan.

Many aid workers say WFP could get more food aid in to hungry communities.

But some are warning that in places considered enemy territory by the Taleban, normal aid work has now become impossible.

Some aid workers are raising the idea of the United States and the United Kingdom setting up safe air corridors to get food aid in and stop people dying.

But there is still a lot of concern about mixing up humanitarian and military matters.