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IN THE NEWS - October 27, 2001: Food Drops in Afghanistan - 2001-10-26

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS.

On Thursday, three huge American Air Force transport planes took off from Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Each plane carried large paper boxes packed with small yellow containers of food. Several hours later, the planes dropped the food to hungry refugees in northern Afghanistan.

These almost daily drops of food began October Seventh. Since then about nine-hundred-thousand meals have been dropped in Afghanistan from the American airplanes. Each of the yellow containers is called a Humanitarian Daily Ration. Each includes enough food to feed one person for one day.

The United States has dropped more than eight million containers of food since Nineteen-Ninety-Three to help feed refugees in Iraq, Bosnia, Rwanda and Haiti.

The dropping of food by airplanes is part of President’s Bush’s three-hundred-twenty-million dollar aid program for the people of Afghanistan. The president has ordered the Defense Department to provide food to areas of Afghanistan where people lack food.

Many Afghans were already in danger of starving this winter because of three years of lack of rain and continued civil war. Thousands of Afghans have fled from cities to the northern mountain areas since the American attacks against the Taleban began three weeks ago.

President Bush has explained repeatedly that military action in Afghanistan is a war against terrorists and the Taleban government that protects them. He says the military action is not aimed at the people of Afghanistan.

Several aid organizations have criticized the American plan to drop food from airplanes. Aid workers say the food does not reach the people who need it most. They say most of the food is being sold by strong healthy men who seize it.

Yet reporters have talked to refugees who have collected food containers dropped by American airplanes. One man said it was the first time in many months that he and his family have had enough to eat.

On Wednesday, American intelligence reports said it is possible the Taleban might try to poison the dropped food and blame the American government. A Taleban spokesman dismissed the report. The Taleban recently seized United Nations storehouses filled with food in Kabul and Kandahar. The food was being held for Afghan civilians.

Food will continue to be extremely important in Afghanistan. International aid organizations are appealing to all sides in the conflict to stop blocking aid trucks. They say the cold winter weather will arrive soon and the lack of food will have a severe effect on all civilians in Afghanistan.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS was written by Paul Thompson. This is Steve Ember.