Global Policy Forum

Kabul Food Crisis 'Could be Averted'

June 15, 2001

The United Nations Food Programme (WFP) says the threatened closure of bakeries which supply cheap bread to the poor residents of Afghanistan's capital may now be averted. WFP officials had earlier said they would close the Kabul bakeries on Friday after failing to reach an agreement with Taleban leaders over the employment of Afghan women for a survey of vulnerable families.

According to an agency spokesman, Khaled Mansour, the Taleban requested that negotiations continue for a few more days - WFP director for Afghanistan, Gerard van Dijk, is to remain in Kabul until Tuesday. However, Mr Mansour said the bakeries - which provide cheaper bread for 300,000 people - will remain closed on Saturday because they do not have flour. "If the negotiations are successful we will move to restore them as soon as possible," said Mr Mansour.

Taleban Demands

As the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan deepens, the WFP is concerned that the ration card system for distributing bread is now misused. Closure of the bakeries, it claims, would not actually hurt that many hungry people. The organisation wants to conduct a new survey of poverty in Kabul so as to be able to distribute bread to those who most need it. Both the Taleban and the WFP agree that the survey has to be done by women - men are forbidden to view unrelated women - but have failed to reach agreement on exactly who should do it.

The UN wants at least half of the researchers to be local women trained by the agency, but has also accepted Taleban demands to hire female staff from the Public Health Ministry. Afghan women are only allowed to work for the health ministry, and the Taleban says only these employees and women from neighbouring countries will be allowed to do conduct the survey.

'Positive Sign'

That proposal was rejected earlier by the WFP as impractical. "Bringing people from other places requires more costs. Some options are practical and some are less practical. We hope to go houses to find the needy people and for that we have to employ local women ourselves," said Mr van Dijk.

Now WPF officials say they are cautiously optimistic of a breakthrough. "We saw it is a positive sign if they are ready to conduct talks on a Friday" (the Muslim holy day).

'Political Weapon'

Afghanistan's rulers had earlier warned they would not reverse their decision and did not care if all UN aid to the country was suspended. Accusing the UN of using aid as a political weapon, the Taleban have appealed to Islamic nations for help. The latest impasse between the Taleban and international aid organisations comes as Afghanistan suffers its third year of drought. An estimated five million Afghans have little or no access to food, and aid workers warn the humanitarian crisis is deepening.

More Information on Sanctions Against Afghanistan
More Information on Sanctions
More Information on Afghanistan


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.