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America Strikes Back: World Food Program Aid Workers Still Working in Afghanistan

Aired October 9, 2001 - 06:13   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: And relief workers are making plans clearly to deal with what they are calling a human catastrophe inside of Afghanistan. And one thing we do know, the results of these air strikes right now people are fleeing the major cities inside of Afghanistan and starvation is one of the big high-risk gambles of these air strikes. The World Food Program, though, is trying to carry on inside and they are risking their lives to deliver much needed food.

So joining us right now is Khaled Mansour. He is the spokesman for the World Food Program.

Good morning, Khaled, you join us from Islamabad and I appreciate the time that you're giving us on a very busy day. We heard earlier from the United Nations that the World Food Program has at least been able to get some truck convoys inside of Afghanistan with some much needed food. Can you give us an idea of where that food is headed and whether it's going to make its destination?

KHALED MANSOUR, WORLD FOOD PROGRAM: We still have one convoy of 14 trucks heading to Herat. We know that it has passed Kandahar on its way to Herat in west Afghanistan. Another convoy has arrived safely in Kabul with much needed food. As you know, we have bakers in Kabul feeding widows and children and women and we are distributing food to them. This convoy will help us sustain their needs until the end of October. But the needs inside Afghanistan are huge and hopefully our local aid workers on the ground as much as they can as long as they are safe they will continue to distribute over 9,000 pounds of food to the people inside the country.

LIN: Khaled, what are the risks that your workers are taking in these truck convoys as these air strikes go on?

MANSOUR: Well, we use commercial trucks inside the country to move food from warehouses in Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan to the people who need it. As of yesterday, we have temporarily suspended convoys inside the country. And we instructed our aid workers on the ground to distribute the food inside the country as much as they can and as long as you feel safe and as long as we can ensure to a reasonable extent under the circumstances that the food will get to the civilian women and to the children and to the men who need it.

LIN: But how can you guarantee that?

MANSOUR: Because our aid workers, as I said, are still working on the ground. We have international NGOs and other NGOs with their staff on the ground. Don't forget, we've been working in Afghanistan for so many years. We have distribution structures, we know communities, we have been working with them. I think we can guarantee that a very reasonable extent.

LIN: What are you hearing from your aid workers then inside about whether the food packets, the more than 37,000 food packets that were airdropped on Sunday night right after the first air strikes, whether any of those packets were able to reach some of the Afghan refugees who are roaming around the countryside?

MANSOUR: We have very bad communication with our local aid workers on the ground. The Taliban have seized most of the communication equipment and sealed some of the rooms. So we have very, very sketchy information. What I can tell you from Islamabad is there is a massive need in Afghanistan and any bit of food that can reach the civilians there will be helpful.

LIN: All right, Khaled Mansour -- Khaled Mansour, I appreciate the time that you've given us this morning and wish you well and good luck in trying to deliver that food inside of Afghanistan.

That's a very risky situation for many of the aid workers who are trying to help.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: They have a heck of a job to do, you're right. They've got a heck of a job to do. Good luck doing it, too, folks.

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