Warlords steal food meant for victims of quake

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 1 Apr 2002 11:07:35 +0100

EFFORTS to bring aid to tens of thousands of earthquake survivors in
Afghanistan are being hampered by the theft of international aid by
local warlords. 

The gangs, who took over the areas after the Taliban fled last year, are
insisting that aid agencies employ them to deliver emergency supplies.
Once the goods are handed over they are taken for private consumption or
for future sale. 

Javed, who lost two daughters and a son in the earthquake, complained
that the aid agencies were giving tents, blankets and food to the

"Many of these commanders have been going to the aid agencies as soon as
they arrive and demanding to distribute the aid. But they are thieves.
We have got very little and much of that aid will be on sale in markets
in other parts of Afghanistan within weeks," he said. 

All of Javed’s neighbours backed his accusations and said aid agencies
should try to deliver supplies directly or to representatives nominated
by the stricken communities. 

Stephanie Bunker, a spokeswoman for the UN, said she was aware of the
problem of supplies being siphoned off. She said an inquiry was under
way but it was unlikely to lead to the retrieval of any stolen supplies.

The theft of aid goes on despite the involvement of international troops
in relief efforts. Russian troops have set up two mobile hospitals and
British-led international troops from Kabul have set up another.
Humanitarian relief has arrived quickly to the region, mainly because of
the presence of international aircraft and aid groups engaged in
rebuilding the country’s infrastructure. 

Heavy dust storms and light rain have slowed some distribution efforts
and one US helicopter carrying aid reported a "trace of firearms" from
the ground earlier in the week. 

"We can’t say for sure it was aimed fire. It might have been from
someone celebrating," said Major Bryan Hilferty, spokesman for the 10th
Mountain Division. Nobody was hurt in the incident. 

Meanwhile, the ordinary people of the region are coming to terms with
the latest calamity to befall them. Mohamed Safar picked through the
rubble of his home in the old part of the town of Nahrin, which was at
the centre of the earthquake. 

When the earthquake struck he was in his house with his wife and six
children finishing off their modest meal of rice, beans, bread and green

He said: "Suddenly there was a horrible shaking and a roar like I had
never heard. We tried to flee but we were helpless and the walls and
ceiling collapsed around us until we were buried." Safar was trapped for
two hours before some of his neighbours pulled him out. 

He joined in the desperate search for the rest of his family. Without
electric lights or lanterns, only the moon revealed a nightmarish scene
of almost total devastation in the old town. 

The moans and cries for help of some of his family guided Safar and they
managed to pull out his wife and three children alive from the rubble.
But another three - two daughters and a son aged between four and 14,
died. That pattern of tragedy was repeated hundreds of times throughout
Nahrin and around 80 villages in the area where the earthquake, which
registered 6.1 on the Richter scale, struck. 

At first the Afghan government and international aid agencies put the
death toll at up to 3,000 people. Yesterday Stephanie Bunker told
Scotland on Sunday the confirmed death toll was about 800 but that many
more corpses could be discovered beneath the rubble, especially in the
remoter villages. 

The earthquake struck an area that is mostly barren plains with
scattered fertile land, in the shadow of the snow-crested mountains of
the Hindu Kush. 

Nahrin, the biggest town in the area, is composed of a new town and old
town. The old town was built predominantly of mud and straw and wooden
beams. It is now almost completely levelled. 

Wooden beams and window frames protrude from the rubble at odd angles.
Safar and other survivors search through the pieces of furniture,
cupboards and carpets that provide the only colour in the dusty brown

Clusters of graves lie not far from the remains of the homes. Islam
requires that the dead are buried quickly. The ‘new’ part of Nahrin,
which contains many brick buildings, has also been badly affected. 

Many aid agencies established themselves in the country after the fall
of the Taliban regime and reacted quickly after the earthquake. 

The international peacekeeping force, headed by the British army and
American-led combat forces, have also provided help. The United Nations
is co-ordinating the relief effort and Bunker said that tents had been
distributed throughout the town and in the outlying villages. 

Yesterday the stench of undiscovered corpses and dead animals was
beginning to hang in the rubble-filled streets of Nahrin. Aftershocks
from the quake continue to cause the earth to sway and survivors will
sleep in tents or in the open until they can build new earthquake-proof

Source:  The Scotsman

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