- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Just as Americans opened their wallets for September 11 victims, charity officials say some are giving to help civilian Afghans who have been uprooted by the war against the Taliban.
Precisely how much money is being donated is unknown, though it is likely in the tens of millions. Dozens of charities operate overseas and are aiding the Afghans, but many donors give to humanitarian groups without specifying where the money should go.
Some personal checks, however, come with the note "for Afghanistan," or in response to directed appeals or news reports.
In perhaps the best-publicized Afghan charity drive, children nationwide have donated $1.5 million in response to President Bush's request they each give a dollar for Afghan youngsters.
Young people also collected about $4 million in the 51st annual trick-or-treat Halloween drive for UNICEF. The money was earmarked for Afghanistan, where the effects of drought and civil war were felt for years before this latest crisis.
But not everyone agrees the Afghans deserve help.
"We did get two or three hate calls, from people who said, 'Why are you taking food out of the mouths of firefighters' children?'" said Jeff Meer, executive director of USA for UNHCR (the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees).
Still, an appeal from the group has raised about $1.6 million in donations so far, a response Mr. Meer rates "very strong."
"The only other circumstance when we raised money faster for a refugee crisis was for Kosovo," he said. In that effort, Mr. Meer's group raised more than $3 million to help the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians fleeing a Serbian terror campaign.
Millions of Afghanistan's roughly 25 million people have fled their homes. The United Nations estimates 3.5 million live in refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran, and as many as 200,000 are in Tajikistan, Mr. Meer said. An estimated 1.5 million Afghans have been displaced but remain in their ravaged country.
With winter coming, agencies say they need money for emergency basics such as tents, plastic ground covers, blankets, jackets, stoves for heating and cooking, kitchen tools, medicine and food.
Janet Harris of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in New York, said she felt relieved when Mr. Bush assured the world that the United States was waging war against terrorists and those who harbor them, not against the Afghan people. She also knows the effect when the news media focus on the Afghans' plight.
"I can tell by what's on the front page, what our checks the next day will be," Miss Harris said. "Those are the days someone may not write on their check 'Only in Afghanistan,' [but] I know why they're doing it."
The IRC hopes to raise $17.8 million to provide Afghans with necessities for immediate and long-term survival.
Miss Harris said that giving to her agency is up compared with last year. From October to November 2000, the IRC raised $2.5 million, she said. Those two months this year brought about $6.5 million including $2 million from a single donor.

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