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Will Afghans Go Hungry?

The first humanitarian supplies are finally getting through to Afghanistan. But with the winter setting in, aid agencies face a tough race against time.

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Women wait for food outside international aid organizations in Kabul on Monday.

In Kabul, the distribution of food aid to some 1.3 million Afghans is expected to resume on Monday. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) handed out sacks of wheat to more than three-quarters of the city’s population on Saturday.

It was its biggest-ever food distribution in the Afghan capital. But the work had been suspended on Sunday due to huge crowds.

Many aid agencies are encouraged that they will get their supplies through to the people following the opening of new routes into Afghanistan. Neighboring Uzbekistan has reopened a crucial border bridge closed since 1997. This allowed a first convoy of 15 vehicles with emergency aid to cross the Amu Darya river into northern Afghanistan on Sunday.

The clearance puts UN aid agencies in a better position to distribute supplies to this region. They are set to resume work in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif this week.

Threat of starvation

The WFP fears that over seven million Afghans are threatened to die from starvation this winter. The agency is racing against time to replenish food stocks before winter snow cuts off vital overland routes.

The organization is particularly concerned about 238,000 people living in Kandahar and its surrounding areas. The WFP has not been able to reach this region since September. "But as soon as the situation stabilizes in Kandahar and the road from Quetta to the city is safe enough, so the truckers feel confident to move along it, we are ready to move in," said spokesman Lindsey Davies.

Davies said the agency had plenty of food stocks in Quetta to feed the people in the Kandahar region, and that its trucks and staff were on standby.

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