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UN: Afghan Refugee Situation Getting Worse - 2001-10-27


United Nations refugee officials warn the situation is getting drastically worse for people fleeing fighting in Afghanistan.

U-N High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers told reporters in Quetta, Pakistan, 150-thousand Afghans already had crossed into Pakistan. Mr. Lubbers said up to twice that number are expected to flee Afghanistan soon.

Humanitarian groups are setting up camps as quickly as possible to handle the migrants. But aid workers say many of the temporary facilities are not equipped to meet the refugees' basic needs for shelter, food and medical assistance.

A spokeswoman for the U-N office on Afghanistan said aid agencies inside the country are not doing enough, despite their best efforts. Kathy Bunker told reporters in Islamabad humanitarian groups are extremely concerned about the loss of life from the fighting and from Afghanistan's harsh winter season.

But despite their concerns, U-N officials have not called for a pause in the air strikes to allow more relief supplies to be sent into Afghanistan. U-N Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Kenzo Oshima says the U-S -led air raids so far have not disrupted aid deliveries.

U-N officials say the Afghan refugee crisis was the world's worst even before the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States. Millions of Afghans already have fled to Pakistan or Iran to escape years of drought and two decades of civil war. Thousands of others have taken refuge at severely overcrowded camps inside Afghanistan.

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