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Afghanistan: flour shortage and new wave of displaced persons

09-04-1997 News Release 97/13

In Afghanistan the price of flour went up by 50% at the beginning of this month, creating further hardship for the country's war-weary population. The authorities in Pakistan, where flour is in short supply, have stopped exports to neighbouring Afghanistan. Afghan civilians, just emerging from the region's harsh winter and already suffering the effects of spiralling inflation and shortages of all sorts, are now facing a lack of bread, their staple diet. Last week the price of bread almost doubled, placing it out of reach of a large part of the population, especially the countless displaced people in the country.

The most vulnerable groups are the hardest hit. Among the 300,000 civilians receiving assistance from the ICRC and the Afghan Red Crescent in Kabul, 210,000 people (war widows, orphans and the disabled) fall within this category and are increasingly if not entirely dependent on humanitarian aid. Their numbers are swelled daily by new arrivals: 3,000 people driven from their homes in the Shamali area, 50 km north-east of Kabul, by the recent fighting have taken shelter in public buildings in the capital. Many of them are women with no family support whose only means of survival is what their children receive from begging. The ICRC is planning to help them by organizing the distribution of basic foodstuffs (rice, flour, beans), blankets and coal.

In the north-west of the country the influx of displaced people is reaching alarming proportions. In Herat, UNHCR estimates their number at 34,000. Among these, more than 18,000 civilians in the city and the surrounding area are now dependent on aid provided by the ICRC, which is thinking of transferring them gradually to a camp ma de up of tents. Continuing fighting in Badghis province has displaced 7,000 more people whom the ICRC is also assisting, mainly in the town of Qala-i-Now.