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From owner-labor-l@YORKU.CA Tue Jan 8 05:00:06 2002
Date: Wed, 9 Jan 2002 02:31:48 -0600
Reply-To: Kim Scipes <sscipe1@ICARUS.CC.UIC.EDU>
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: Kim Scipes <sscipe1@ICARUS.CC.UIC.EDU>
Subject: Many Afghan children might die by March (Newsweek)

The littlest victims

Newsweek Web Exclusive, 5 January 2002

The winter's death toll won't be counted until the spring. But for aid agencies working in Afghanistan, one grim fact is certain: thousands of Afghan children will not survive to see the thaw. We don't know how many children are dying on a day-by-day basis, UNICEF spokesman Alfred Ironside told NEWSWEEK. But we do know that they are. They're dying of cold, they're dying of hunger, they're dying of disease.

Afghanistan's troubles have long taken an especially heavy toll on its youngest citizens. After more than 20 years of war and three years of drought, they are malnourished and at risk from hazards like land mines and unexploded bombs. Many have spent their entire lives in refugee camps either inside or outside their country's borders. Their infant mortality rate is one of the highest in the world, with one in four dying before their fifth birthday from illnesses like measles, diarrhea and pneumonia.

Winter, inevitably, is the toughest time for Afghanistan's children. When the United States began attacking the country's Taliban rulers last October over their refusal to hand over terror mastermind Osama bin Laden, aid organizations predicted that the new outbreak of fighting would prevent the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian supplies. Carol Bellamy, executive director of UNICEF, warned that as many as another 100,000 children could die by March if they did not get assistance.

For now, this worst-case scenario may have been staved off. Aid groups have managed to deliver food: UNICEF has sent in more than 60 relief convoys since September, and Save the Children's Nilgun Ogun says her organization was able to drop off several months worth of supplies before snow made some southern routes impassable. Nor, for the moment, are there any indications of epidemics in the region's crowded refugee camps.

Nonetheless, few aid workers are optimistic. Relief workers say that local warlords are stealing food shipments, and the country's poor infrastructure and continuing instability makes it uncertain whether convoys will be able to penetrate rural areas. While aid might have reached the country, aid within the country might not be reaching all those who need it, says Ironside. Perhaps the situation is not as dire as we might have imagined two months ago, [but] tens of thousands of children remain at risk.