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Alessio Vinci: U.N. aid on the move to Afghans

(CNN) -- As Taliban forces reportedly retreat to southern Afghanistan, humanitarian efforts are gearing up in the northern region.

CNN Correspondent Alessio Vinci is traveling from Uzbekistan into Afghanistan on a boat following a barge loaded with United Nations aid. The relief is headed to Herat, Afghanistan, for distribution. He filed this report.

CNN: We spoke with the head of Doctors Without Borders. He says that despite all the changes in Afghanistan on the ground on the military front, the humanitarian effort has not changed much. What is the situation there?

VINCI: We actually are witnessing a significant change. I am on a tugboat on the Amu-Daria River, which is a river that separates Uzbekistan from Afghanistan, and we are following a barge loaded with some 100 tons of U.N. humanitarian relief assistance that has been sent from Termez in southern Uzbekistan. It will go to the city of Herat in north-western Afghanistan.

This is the first time that the U.N. aid agencies are able to ship desperately needed aid into Afghanistan from neighboring Uzbekistan. It is a first step for the U.N. and if all goes well, more barges will be leaving in the coming days. The World Food Program had already loaded two additional barges with 200 tons of wheat each to ship to northern Afghanistan as soon as possible.

The cargo today includes some 2,000 blankets, 50 metric tons of wheat, 10,000 winter jackets and more than 1,000 pairs of shoes for kids and some 10,000 water containers. When we arrive in the port of Herat in northern Afghanistan, this shipment will be manually unloaded and stored in warehouses for future distribution. About half of the 3.4 million people living in northern Afghanistan depend on this kind of humanitarian assistance to survive and out of those 3.4 million people, half of them have been internally displaced by the recent fighting.

Security, of course, in northern Afghanistan remains a huge concern. The situation there remains volatile and the U.N. officials want to make sure that the aid actually reaches the people in need.


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