Washington Provides Food, Medicine to Afghans
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2001 Even before the first of 37,000 humanitarian daily rations began floating down to Afghan refugees, the United States was the largest foreign aid donor to the people of Afghanistan.
Well before the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon Sept. 11, the United States provided food and medicine to thousands of refugees in the troubled land.
War and drought have combined to drop the average yearly wage to under $800, U.S. officials said. The U.S. government provided about $70 million in humanitarian assistance in 1997, the most recent numbers available. This is despite the fact that the United States does not recognize the Taliban regime as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. The United States also contributes to multilateral assistance through U.N. programs of food aid, immunizations, land mine removal and a wide range of aid to refugees and displaced persons.
Officials estimate that 2 million Afghans are refugees inside neighboring Pakistan. Another 1.4 million are in Iran. Millions more are "internally displaced." Counting all refugees, Afghanistan has an estimated 25 million citizens.
On Oct. 4, President Bush pledged another $320 million for humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. The money will go toward food, medicine, blankets and shelter for the Afghans as the tough winter approaches.
"This is our way of saying that, while we firmly and strongly oppose the Taliban regime, we are friends of the Afghan people," Bush said. "We will make sure that not only the folks in Afghanistan who need help get help, but we will help those who have fled to neighboring countries to get help as well."
The United States will work with U.N. agencies such as the World Food Program and nongovernmental organizations to ensure its aid reaches the most needy, Bush said.
DoD will airdrop humanitarian daily rations to refugees inside Afghanistan. On Oct. 7, U.S. C-17 transport jets dropped the "culturally neutral" rations to concentrations of refugees inside Afghanistan. Culturally neutral means they are mostly vegetarian and can be eaten by members of all religions. All told, the United States has 2 million of these rations available.
The humanitarian daily ration grew out of U.S. experiences in providing aid to Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq following the Gulf War and to Somalia. Many military rations contain products that Muslims could not eat, such as pork entrees. In 1993, DoD developed the humanitarian daily ration. Modeled after the Meals, Ready-to-Eat, the ration was vitamin enriched and supplied enough calories for an adult for one day.
The ration's yellow plastic packaging causes it to "float" down from airlifters. This stops the need to drop pallets of food via parachute. This permits wide distribution of the rations and stops fights over the palletized loads.
Other food aid will arrive by truck or be delivered via nongovernmental organizations.