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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America Strikes Back: Interview of UNICEF's Eric Laroche, on Afghan Humanitarian Situation

Aired October 10, 2001 - 05:57   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: Refugees are crowding Afghanistan's four borders, spilling over into its neighbors. Millions of displaced Afghans are now in Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Iran, and many more are trying to cross the borders, which still remain closed.

Eric Laroche is the UNICEF representative for Afghanistan, and he joins us from Islamabad this morning, for more on this humanitarian crisis.

Good morning, Eric.

ERIC LAROCHE, UNICEF: Yes, good morning.

LIN: Can you tell us what exactly do you understand the status of these refugees inside of Afghanistan to be right now? Are they still on the move?

LAROCHE: Well there are many people moving, but not as many as we thought it would be. So in fact, the humanitarian crisis is happening inside Afghanistan, not very much outside of Afghanistan. So everyone was forced outside of Afghanistan to receive refugees, but in fact, what is happening, particularly for the kids and their mothers, is that they are moving inside Afghanistan.

The movement of those people is very much due to several factors, one which is Afghanistan is one of the poorest country in the world. One mother is dying every 30 minutes of being pregnant, of having been delivering. One child out of four or three is not going to reach his fifth birthday. So you see, it is a very, very poor population. So those ones are gathering together in camps inside of Afghanistan, particularly in the north and in the west.

The problem is how to reach these people and how to make sure that we can reach these people. This means a lot of money. It means a lot of money. A plate has been done last week in Geneva whereby the different governments were saying, OK, we're going to give you $600 million. For the time being, only $38 million has been received.

LIN: Eric, clearly...

LAROCHE: We were asking UNICEF for the...

LIN: Eric, I'm sorry, let me interrupt you there because before you go on about that, I want to focus right now on the situation inside of Afghanistan. The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan just had a news conference and says that the ruling Taliban inside of Afghanistan is setting fire to the food packets that the United States dropped during airstrikes on Sunday. What do you make of this? Have you heard anything about this? And what is the impact likely to be on those people who are starving?

LAROCHE: The impact is probably not going to be a major impact, because the amount of food that was dropped is just not enough to face the crisis, because the crisis inside Afghanistan is a huge crisis. The fact the Taliban is burning the food is obviously a spectacular show, and that has, obviously, political connotations.

But you know, this is not going to be solving the problem. It's not going to be aggravating the problem either, because the amount of food that has been dropped has nothing to do with the requirements. The requirements are enormous inside Afghanistan, and what needs to be done is to make sure that this food is going to reach the right people, mainly children and women. This is very important. This cannot be done unless we have convoys going inside Afghanistan, or the reception of this convoy is ensured by local NGOs or our own UNICEF staff.

LIN: Eric, are you getting more support from the bordering countries? There was a crisis meeting inside of Iran to talk about what to do about the millions of refugees that might be heading towards that border. And a high-ranking U.S. official told CNN Iran is being very, very cooperative in allowing U.S. relief in. Can you confirm this for us?

LAROCHE: Yes, I can answer you right away. We have been sending convoys from the Iran border this morning to Herat, with a consent and the agreement and the support of the Iranian government. So I think the Iranian government is very helpful in providing whatever support is needed inside Afghanistan. And I think that so far this is the first of a series of plane that have landed and that are going to land in Iran, and we expect to have much more. We need to be able to send these goods inside Afghanistan, and particularly in Herat. In Heart, you may know we have 250,000 people that are gathered in camps.

LIN: All right, thank you very much, Eric Laroche, for confirming that for us, Eric Laroche with UNICEF.

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