- The Washington Times - Monday, May 20, 2002

Afghan refugees suffer
KABUL, Afghanistan Humanitarian aid to Afghanistan is falling short of the country's needs, with emergency food programs facing a funding crisis and returning refugees overwhelming the United Nations, aid workers said yesterday.
Unless the disbursement of funds accelerates to match demand, Afghanistan's progress to peace and stability after the fall of the Taliban regime could erode, officials said. "Time is not really on our side here, time is not on the side of Afghans," said Yusuf Hassan, spokesman in Kabul for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
The UNHCR had planned for the return of 800,000 refugees, mainly from neighboring Pakistan and Iran, by the end of 2002 and had a $270 million budget to help them. As of Saturday, 633,343 Afghan refugees out of about 4 million living in exile had returned home. Donor nations, meanwhile, had released just $171 million of the promised funds.

Donors await loya jirga
TEHRAN The international community is waiting for political stabilization in Afghanistan to send the promised financial aid there, the administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) said yesterday.
Mark Malloch Brown said less than $1 billion of the $4.5 billion pledged over five years for reconstruction purposes during the January Tokyo donors' conference had been paid, and $400 million of that had reached the UNDP.
"The countries are ready to post the money. However, money has not yet flowed into Afghanistan due to political instability; they wait for loya jirga in June," he said, predicting "a rapid acceleration of financing" will follow.
The loya jirga is a traditional council to be convened next month that will select a new government. It is perceived as the first step toward stable democracy in the war-ravaged country.

Saudi practices faulted
GENEVA Saudi Arabia is breaking an international accord banning torture by carrying out punishments like flogging and amputation, the United Nations says.
The U.N. Committee against Torture said such punishments "are not in conformity with the convention" and that Saudi Arabia should "re-examine" them.
The 10-member committee checks on compliance with the 1984 U.N. Convention against Torture. Like the 129 other countries that have signed the agreement, Saudi Arabia must submit reports to show it is applying the rules. Saudi Arabia reported only recently since it ratified the convention in 1997.
The conservative kingdom follows a strict interpretation of Shariah, Islamic law. Courts routinely order lashings and hand amputations for theft and minor crimes, and public executions for murder, rape and drug trafficking. Committee Chairman Peter Burns told reporters that other Islamic states that have signed the convention do not apply Islamic law in the same strict way.

UNITA camps in crisis
LONDON Angola faces a humanitarian crisis unless the world organizes an urgent relief effort, a senior U.N. envoy said over the weekend.
Olara Otunnu spoke in London on Saturday after a weeklong visit to three Angolan provinces previously held by UNITA rebels in the country's long-running civil war.
"There's a major humanitarian crisis unfolding in the country," he told Reuters. "The level of [mal]nutrition and disease is grave. There's a need for an urgent relief effort or the situation could become a humanitarian crisis of tragic proportions."
Mr. Otunnu, special representative of the U.N. secretary-general for children and armed conflict, said conditions were especially bad in camps housing dependents of fighters for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). About 350,000 women and children in the camps badly need food, medicines and water. "The conditions are appalling," he said. "They are all severely malnourished."

Betsy Pisik is on assignment; her column will resume when she returns.

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