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U.N. Agency Begins Food Distribution in Kabul - 2001-12-08


The United Nations World Food Program has begun distributing food to one-point-three million needy people in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

U-N officials say the distribution operation is expected to take eight days and will help more than three-quarters of the population of Kabul.

Meanwhile, a seven-member U-N advance team arrived Saturday in the Afghan capital to prepare for the deployment of an international peace-keeping force. The peace-keepers could be in place before December 22nd, when the new interim Afghan government assumes power in Kabul. Details on the composition of the peace-keeping force have yet to be determined, but U-S Secretary of State Colin Powell said Saturday that Germany and Britain have offered to lead the force.

In another development, Tajikistan is re-opening a key river crossing into Afghanistan for humanitarian aid convoys. A border guard spokesman says the first convoy of trucks carrying relief supplies will cross the Pyandzh river by ferry to the Afghan port of Sherkhan on Sunday.

Tajikistan closed ferry operations at the border checkpoint in September 2000 after Taleban military units set up camps nearby in Afghanistan.

International aid groups say the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is far from over, and they say that relief efforts should focus on children, who are often the first to die from starvation and exposure.

The International Organization for Migration says 177 people -- most of them children -- have recently died in the extreme cold of a refugee camp in the northern Afghan region of Kunduz.

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