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1/22/03 - ASSISTING AFGHAN REFUGEES - 2003-01-23


Afghans have shown their faith in the new Afghan government by returning home in record numbers. Since the establishment of an interim Afghan government in December 2001, more than two-million refugees have returned. Many were desperately in need of food. Last year, the United Nations World Food Program, largely through contributions by the United States, managed to avert a famine in Afghanistan. While there should be enough food to meet the needs of the Afghan people through the winter, the World Food Program needs new contributions to assist the most vulnerable after March.

But more than just food is needed. Due to decades of armed conflict, several years of drought, and Taleban misrule, Afghanistan’s agricultural, physical, and economic infrastructure has been neglected and damaged. The U.S. has helped to rehabilitate water and sanitation facilities. Afghanistan is also among the countries most severely affected by landmines. To help combat this scourge, the U.S. has trained and equipped mine clearance specialists, provided mine detectors, and conducted mine awareness education programs.

Over three-million Afghan boys and girls returned to school last year. The U.S. has distributed six-thousand tents to serve as temporary classrooms, numerous textbooks, and teaching kits. Also last year, the U.S. gave over ten-million dollars to rebuild health clinics, train Afghan health-care workers, and provide primary, maternal, and child health care to vulnerable people in Afghanistan and Afghans still in camps in Pakistan.

There is still a lot more to be done in Afghanistan, including the prevention of human rights abuses. The U.S. recently contributed ten-million dollars to strengthen the capacity of the Afghan Human Rights Commission.

As President George W. Bush said, the U.S. “affirms its full commitment to a future of progress and stability for the Afghan people.... [W]e want to be a continued part of the new era of hope in Afghanistan.”

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