UNs top refugee official urges Afghanistans neighbours to keep borders open

“Many Afghans are not only afraid of what may happen in future, but are now – in addition to the current tensions – fearing even greater difficulties than before because international humanitarian agencies like mine had to withdraw their international staff,” said Ruud Lubbers in a statement released in Geneva.The High Commissioner assured neighbouring States that UNHCR and the international community would be there to assist in the humanitarian effort. “They will not be left alone,” he said, calling for countries to join forces to provide relief to Afghanistan. “If there is to be a military coalition, there should also be a humanitarian coalition to really share the burden,” he said.As chief of a worldwide humanitarian agency responsible for helping nearly 22 million refugees and others, Mr. Lubbers also made a strong appeal to leaders everywhere to prevent hostility against Afghans and other Muslim asylum-seekers and refugees. “It would be very wrong if they were to become the target of popular anger or of restrictive governmental measures,” he said.Meanwhile, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today warned that an already grave food crisis in Afghanistan could worsen. With starvation threatening millions of Afghans, FAO said, “the issue of life-saving will pose a serious challenge to the international community in the coming months.”The recent evacuation of international relief workers from Afghanistan will seriously affect the food security of large numbers of vulnerable people, according to FAO. “The emergency relief operations are likely to come to a virtual halt, even though humanitarian agencies would rely on their local staff to carry out the operations to the extent possible.” Crucial humanitarian programmes such as UN-supported bakeries that feed more than 300,000 vulnerable people in Kabul are likely to be seriously affected.