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Afghan aid supplies slow to a trickle



ISLAMABAD, Kabul (CNN) -- The U.N. World Food Program says a convoy of eight aid trucks arrived safely in Kabul Monday evening, the first such delivery since the beginning of the U.S.-led strikes on Afghanistan.

With thousands of Afghans facing starvation the WFP has suspended further food deliveries to the Afghan capital because of the deteriorating security situation.

Other agencies have also expressed safety concerns in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, warning that efforts to provide facilities for those fleeing the air strikes could be seriously undermined.

WFP spokesman Francisco Luna said the latest convoy had brought with it 220 metric tons of wheat.

He said the WFP had received no reports of any staff member having been injured in the strikes on Afghanistan, after U.N. officials said on Tuesday at least four of its local workers had been killed in an overnight raid by U.S. planes.

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However, he added that communications with WFP employees in the country -- which had been hard before the strikes -- were now extremely difficult.

A separate WFP food convoy is expected to reach the northwestern city of Herat later this week.

The WFP has said it is extremely important to restock food stores across the country before the arrival of the winter snows next month, which will make large areas of the country inaccessible to outside aid.

Millions dependent on aid

Before the current crisis began the U.N. agency estimated that at least 2 million Afghans were dependent on its deliveries to feed themselves after decades of civil war and years of drought.

Officials say that the number in need of assistance is only likely to increase the longer the strikes go on and the worse the weather conditions get during the harsh Afghan winter.

In the countries bordering Afghanistan aid agencies say they are building up reserves in anticipation of a flood of refugees, despite deteriorating security and logistical problems.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday violent protests in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar had "drastically limited" the movements of international staff who are working to set up camps in the area.

It says that despite the closure of the Pakistani border with Afghanistan, refugees are still trickling in at the rate of several hundred per day.

Race against time

The agency said some reports indicated that a growing Taliban presence in the border region may be blocking refugees from leaving Afghanistan.

With aid workers racing against time to get essential facilities in place the UNHCR says there is a high risk its camps will be overrun if the feared hundreds of thousands of refugees start to flood across the border.

Security concerns are also delaying aid work in other countries bordering Afghanistan.

In Iran, which borders Afghanistan to the north, aid workers say they cannot yet be sure either of safety inside Afghanistan or that the aid they are seeking to deliver will reach its intended recipients.

Nonetheless a convoy of British aid bound for the city of Herat was able to enter Afghanistan Tuesday.

The delivery began after what was reported to be more than a week of negotiations with the Afghan truck drivers.

Iran has closed its border with Afghanistan but says it will help establish refugee camps inside the border on Afghan territory -- a proposal the Taliban have yet to agree to.

The Iranian government says that with 2 million Afghan refugees already in the country it cannot cope with any more.

'Propaganda'

With most relief routes cut off, the only aid supplies currently entering Afghanistan are U.S. food drops being conducted at the same time as military strikes.

On Monday the United States said their C-17 cargo aircraft flying from Ramstein in Germany delivered a further 37,000 packages of food rations to the country -- about the same number as delivered on Sunday.

However, at least one aid group has criticized the U.S. delivery of food supplies.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) based in France said the "so-called humanitarian operation" was merely "military propaganda" designed to justify the strikes.

The agency, known as Doctors Without Borders in English, won the 1999 Nobel Peace prize for its medical relief work in more than 80 countries.

The group ended its presence in Afghanistan on September 14 along with most other aid organizations operating in the country.






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