United Nations relief agencies are rushing aid into Afghanistan to head off a major humanitarian catastrophe.
Tuesday, the U-N Children's Relief Fund sent large convoys of supplies from Pakistan toward four Afghan cities -- Herat, Jalalabad, Kandahar, and the capital, Kabul. The aid includes tons of blankets, medicines, winter clothing and food.
The convoys departed from the city of Peshawar, where the U-N refugee agency has been flying in tons of blankets and plastic sheeting.
Meanwhile, shipments of aid from Russia have arrived in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, for transport to northern Afghanistan. The Russian aid includes food, blankets, and tents. Helicopters are expected to ferry the supplies across the border into areas held by the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance.
The United Nations estimates that seven-and-a-half million Afghans need help if they are to survive winter, which is only six weeks away.
The threat of U-S military strikes against Afghanistan's ruling Taleban has compounded the difficulties in a country already reeling from years of civil war and drought. For more than two weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, U-N agencies were unable to send in aid because of security and transport problems.
The U-N refugee agency says it has contingency plans for what it calls a "worst-case scenario" -- one and a half-million refugees pouring out of Afghanistan. Today, the agency said it plans to build new refugee camps in northwest Pakistan, which is expected to receive the bulk of the refugee flood.