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(en) Daybreak #3 - Food Drops and 7 Million on the Brink of Starvation

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://free.freespeech.org/mn/daybreak!/article17.html)
Date Sat, 23 Nov 2002 04:34:27 -0500 (EST)

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Aid workers in Afghanistan estimate that the remaining civilian
food supply will last less than 2 weeks.  This puts approximately
7.5 million people, who have already experienced drought, recent
crop failures, and two decades of war, at risk for starvation during
Afghanistan's bitter winter.

Food aid organizations Oxfam, Action Aid, Christian Aid, and
Islamic Relief have pleaded for all parties in the Afghani conflict -
including the Taliban and the Northern Alliance -to suspend
military action to allow crucial food supplies through. The UN
shows signs of following the aid organizations example; the World
Food Program admits that it cannot bring in the amount of
supplies necessary to prevent catastrophic mass starvation.

In response, the US International Development Secretary stated
that there is no "cause and effect" between the bombing and the
ability of aid workers to deliver much needed food and shelter. Aid
workers rejected her comments, saying: "basically the bombing
makes getting supplies in difficult, it's as simple as that." A
spokesperson for Christian Aid called Short's remarks
"sickening," saying "needy people are being put at risk by
government spin doctors who are showing a callous disrespect for
human life. To say that there is no link is misleading and
profoundly dangerous."


The US government sought to allay humanitarian concerns with a
program to air drop food to starving civilians. However, aid
workers criticized the operations as being completely "wasteful
and ineffective." The food is packed in massive crates that are
pushed from airplanes at altitudes of 20,000 to 30,000 feet. These
crates (containing bread, barley gruel, peanut butter, propaganda
leaflets, a radio, and a fruit bar) are intended to break open so the
individual food packages can be distributed.  Many times the
crates don't open and smash into useless splinters on the ground;
or, as happened in US operations in both Bosnia and Iraq, land on
people, killing them.

Doctors without Borders condemned the food drops as
intentionally ineffective propaganda tools, saying, "This is not a
humanitarian operation. It is part of a military campaign designed
to gather international approval for the attacks. It is virtually
useless and may even be dangerous. What sense is there in
shooting with one hand and distributing medicines with the

Food drops also pose other imminent dangers: Landmines cover
Afghanistan, and civilians have been mistaking the food drops for
US cluster bombs, which are painted the same color.  Many
Afghans also understandably fear that the food is poisoned
because it comes labeled with a flag that is, after all, dropping
bombs on them.

Aid agencies unanimous criticized the drops: Oxfam condemned
what it called "the US food and bombs strategy," saying,
"Untargeted food drops are one of the worst delivery strategies."
Not only are they ineffective, they are astronomical in price. Aid
workers estimate they could deliver hundreds of meals for the
price of each ration dropped. Will Day, chief executive of Care
International, summarizes, "Air drops make great TV but they
represent a failure to respond to the food crisis."


To make the situation worse, the bombings, while supposedly
focusing on military targets, have significantly impacted civilian
infrastructure by destroying integral facilities like power plants,
water plants, and food warehouses. In the past weeks the US has
bombed two different Red Cross food storage areas.  Originally,
officials asserted that the strikes were regrettable accidents until
Maj. General Perry Smith, speaking on NBC on October 29th
stated, "If that food was headed for the innocents, we never
should have hit it, but the Taliban had taken over those Red Cross
facilities, they were feeding their own troops at those Red Cross
facilities. So if a bomb hits a Red Cross facility with food in it,
that's hurting the Taliban."  Smith and the Pentagon essentially
take credit for violating international accords against using the
starvation of civilians as a weapon of war.

The US government has shown no signs of letting up the
bombing as aid workers continue to warn about 7.5 million
civilians, in one of the poorest countries in the world, who will
starve to death this winter unless food is allowed to reach them.

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