Press Releases

SG/SM/7968
AFG/146
26 September 2001

PLIGHT OF CIVILIAN AFGHAN POPULATION DESPERATE,
SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL

Those Deliberately Withholding Food
And Attacking Relief Workers Will Be Held Responsible


NEW YORK, 25 September (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of a statement by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the humanitarian crisis in and around Afghanistan:

I strongly support the statement issued yesterday by the leaders of all the branches of the United Nations involved in humanitarian action.

The plight of the civilian Afghan population is, indeed, desperate. More than two decades of conflict, seven years of oppressive rule by the Taliban regime, and three years of severe drought have left more than 5 million people dependent on foreign aid for their very survival.

Now, tragically, that aid has been interrupted. Those who deliberately withhold food supplies from starving people, and attack or impede humanitarian relief workers -- whether local or international -– should know that the international community will hold them responsible.

Many Afghans are trying to flee the country, but find it difficult to cross the borders. In accordance with international law, the borders must be open to civilians seeking refuge. At the same time, the international community must send swift and generous help, so that refugees do not become an impossible burden on the neighbouring States.

Innocent civilians should not be punished for the actions of their government. The world is united against terrorism. Let it be equally united in protecting and assisting the innocent victims of emergencies and disasters.

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