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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 19, 2001

The U.S. Commitment to the Afghan People

The U.S. is committed to helping alleviate the suffering of the innocent Afghan people affected by the long-standing dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has provided more aid than any other country.  In fact, the U.S.  has supported the Afghan people for decades, providing over $1 billion in humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan since 1979.

According to U.N. estimates, there were over a million displaced people in Afghanistan prior to September 11. The U.S. and its partners in the Central Asia region are working around the clock to move food and relief supplies into Afghanistan from surrounding countries, positioning it directly where it will be needed most as harsh winter weather approaches.

With U.S. support, the U.N. World Food Program delivered over 30,000 metric tons of food into Afghanistan in the first half of November, exceeding records for food delivery into the country  The more than 29,000 metric tons that WFP moved in October had been the most food ever moved in an entire month in Afghanistan.

USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios Returns from Review of U.S. Humanitarian

Operations Into Afghanistan
Andrew S. Natsios, Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, just returned from a week (Nov. 10-17) in Central Asia.  He was in the region to review the U.S. humanitarian operations into Afghanistan.

Natsios visited a camp for internally displaced Afghans in Khwaja Bahawudin, Afghanistan, that receives funding from USAID.  There, he visited a school for girls, an income-generating project for women, a site for winter housing of 10,000 families, and a warehouse stocked with supplies funded by USAID.

On his mission, Natsios visited several Central Asia countries including:

-    Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
-    Tashkent and Termez, Uzbekistan
-    Dushanbe, Tajikistan
-    Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
-    Almaty, Kazakhstan

Natsios also met with U.N. and government officials and members of non-governmental organizations (NGOs); religious leaders; human rights, media and civil society advocates; and Afghan refugees -- many of whom were women.

Throughout the trip, Natsios pushed to accelerate the delivery of aid.  In Turkmenistan, he reviewed aid from a USAID warehouse in Pisa, Italy, en route to Afghanistan, and discussed improving roads to speed more deliveries.  In Termez, he visited the humanitarian barges, which moved the next day, and the Friendship Bridge, which still remains closed.  Natsios urged officials to open it as soon as security permits because as much as 40 percent of humanitarian assistance could enter Afghanistan via this route.

USAID is also currently reviewing opportunities for small-scale, spot reconstruction for roads, wells and irrigation systems in northern Afghanistan where nearly 80 percent of the people in the most critical need of humanitarian assistance are located.

A Long History of Support for the Afghan People
According to U.N. estimates, there were over a million displaced people in Afghanistan prior to September 11.  Over the past three months, 180,000 people have been displaced in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has suffered two decades of war, an ongoing and debilitating three-year drought, and the collapse of government infrastructure and access to basic social services.  As the Taliban directed national resources toward war and imposed severe restrictions on its people, including a restriction on women working outside the home, the situation of the Afghan people worsened:

-    Six million people in Afghanistan and 1.5 million Afghan refugees depend on international relief programs for food aid.  
-    Afghanistan has the world's fourth worst child mortality rate, with about a quarter of Afghan children dying before age five.  
-    Afghanistan ranks number one worldwide in maternal mortality.
-    As many as 50,000 widows lost husbands and other male relatives in the course of Afghanistan's long civil war.
-    The average life expectancy in Afghanistan is 46 years.

The United States has long been the leading donor of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan:

-    The U.S. has supplied more than 80 percent of all food aid to vulnerable Afghans through the United Nations' World Food Program (WFP).  
-    Last year, the U.S. Government provided over $178 million in humanitarian aid to the Afghan people.  
-   The U.S. Government has provided over $237 million in aid to Afghanistan thus far in FY 2002.

Preparation for Winter in Afghanistan
Afghanistan experiences extreme winter weather, with heavy snow in the mountains and the high plateaus. Even low-lying areas like Kabul can have up to 25 inches of snow on the ground in late winter.  In preparation for the harsh winter weather, the U.N. World Food Program has stepped up its food deliveries into Afghanistan.  At any given moment over the past few days, WFP had more than 2,000 trucks moving inside Afghanistan delivering food to various parts of the country, particularly rural areas.

With U.S. support, WFP delivered over 30,000 metric tons of food into Afghanistan in the first half of November, exceeding records for food delivery into the country.  The more than 29,000 metric tons that WFP moved in October had been the most food ever moved in a whole month in Afghanistan.

In the Central Highlands of Afghanistan, where snow fall is heavy, WFP has already moved 13,000 metric tons of food, which is almost half the amount needed to help the people of that region make it through the winter.  The U.S. and its partners are working to move food and other relief items into the region from a variety of routes.

The U.S. airlifted 20,000 wool blankets, 100 rolls of plastic sheeting, 200 metric tons of High Energy Biscuits, and one metric ton of sugar to Turkmenistan for distribution in Afghanistan.

As of November 14, humanitarian relief commodities from the international community began to move into Afghanistan from Uzbekistan by barge.  The first shipment contained 50 metric tons of wheat flour as well as nonfood relief commodities such as blankets and winter clothing.  A second shipment of commodities, including 200 metric tons of wheat flour departed for Hairantan, Afghanistan on November 15.

The U.S. purchased 15,000 metric tons of wheat in Kazakstan, which is due to arrive by rail in Turkmenabad later in November.  Thereafter, rail shipments should arrive in Turkmenabad on a daily basis, at the rate of 1,000 ? 1,500 metric tons per day.  The U.S. Department of Defense has airdropped over 1.5 million Humanitarian Daily Rations into Afghanistan.  Each ration is enough to sustain a person with a day's worth of calories.  (Note: One bag of wheat flour will feed about four adults or a family of 6-8 people. There are 20, 50 kg bags in one metric ton).

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