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October 5, 2001, NEW YORK CITY - Church World Service Emergency Response has received a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to conduct an emergency assessment to determine how humanitarian assistance can be sent into Afghanistan.

The CWS Emergency Response Team of three Americans and one Afghan national was expected to leave Washington on October 5. They will spend at least five weeks in countries that border Afghanistan, including Pakistan and possibly Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan, said team leader Jack Huxtable, an international disaster relief consultant with CWS Emergency Response.

There are no plans to travel within Afghanistan, he said, because of travel restrictions and international tensions following the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attacks.

The CWS assessment is part of a larger effort by USAID to "assure the Afghan people that we are going to continue and intensify our efforts to help them through the winter," Huxtable said. The CWS assessment is expected to result in ways to improve the delivery of food assistance to Afghanistan. As many as 1.5 million Afghans could seek assistance in Pakistan and neighboring countries in the coming months, the United Nations reported.

President Bush outlined the hunger assistance plan in a briefing at the State Department Oct. 4. His administration has committed $320 in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, which includes $25 million in emergency assistance. U.S. humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan came to $174 million in the last fiscal year.

CWS Emergency Response Program Director Rick Augsburger attended the State Department briefing. "The assessment is an incredibly challenging task, but one which could greatly improve the planning and immediate and long-term provision of food aid assistance to people in Afghanistan," Augsburger said. "We’re going to roll up our sleeves and be a little creative," Huxtable said, but added that "food is on its way" to assist Afghans and that one goal is to stem the flow of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees within Afghanistan to neighboring countries, particularly Pakistan.

Continuing U.S. intervention has been helping to address what already had been described as the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world, said USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios. Noting that famines are made more severe because the price of food jumps in a short period of time, Natsios told the Washington Post that a goal of US assistance would be to reduce and stabilize food prices. He told the Post the most effective way to do that is through a "market intervention" strategy, such as supplying commodities to Afghan traders who buy food in neighboring countries to sell in Afghanistan.

Church World Service is also responding to the situation for new arrivals in Pakistan with a large shelter assistance program by providing shelter kits to 15,000 families (comprising some 105,000 persons) who are new arrivals in the border cities of Quetta and Peshawar, Pakistan, and internally displaced persons arriving at settlements in central and northern Afghanistan.

The shelter kits, estimated to cost $90 each, include a family tent, one ground sheet, one plastic sheet and four blankets. Total cost for direct assistance, transport and storage and support costs: $1.552 million.

Church World Service is the ecumenical relief and development ministry of 36 Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican denominations who are members of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA.


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