September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Andrew S. Natsios Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development Afghanistan's Humanitarian Crisis Before a Joint Hearing of the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs and the Subcommittee on International Operations and Terrorism Committee on Foreign Relations United States Senate; November 15, 2001

Andrew S. Natsios
U.S. Agency for International Development
Afghanistan's Humanitarian Crisis


Before a Joint Hearing of the
Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs and the
Subcommittee on International Operations and Terrorism
Committee on Foreign Relations
United States Senate
November 15, 2001


Madam Chairman, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to testify before your committee on the rapidly evolving humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. I submit this testimony even as I am leading a White House mission to the Central Asian Republics on Afghanistan's northern border. This mission signals to the world the importance President Bush places on a robust humanitarian response to this crisis. I am also exploring ways to enhance coordination with our United Nations and nongovernmental organization (NGO) partners in this historic effort.


As you know, Afghanistan is a country in crisis, a crisis that predates the events of September 11th. Three years of drought have brought Afghans to the precipice, but this did not have to become a famine. It was five years of brutal Taliban misrule and neglect that have pushed Afghanistan over the edge. Nearly 1.5 million Afghans are now at risk of starving and 5-7 million Afghans are dependent on outside assistance to survive the combination of a harsh winter, pre-famine conditions, and the dislocation of conflict.

As I testified before you on October 10th of this year, the US Agency for International Development is working energetically with the World Food Program, other international organizations, and international and Afghan NGOs to implement the President's humanitarian strategy in that region. Of the $320 million that President Bush announced on October 4th, USAID will implement $195 million for emergency humanitarian programs. This includes $96 million of International Disaster Assistance, $95 million of P.L. 480 Title II resources, $3 million for demining, and $1 million for extraordinary operational expenses associated with the Afghanistan crisis. We have already committed $51 million of the International Disaster Assistance funds and $58.4 million of the P.L. 480 Title II money for aid organizations working in Afghanistan.

The U.S. humanitarian strategy is fully in operation inside Afghanistan. By that, I mean we are working diligently to deliver and distribute food and relief supplies to reduce death rates. We are focused on distribution of this food to rural villages to minimize population movements, because we know that death comes more easily to those forced to flee their homes. We are devising programs to stabilize rural food markets by increasing incomes (i.e., effective demand) so that commercial suppliers will bring food to those markets. We are developing humanitarian information for radio broadcasts into Afghanistan that tell people food is coming, thereby ensuring that aid reaches the intended recipients. Importantly, we are funding developmental relief activities - what we call "spot reconstruction" - to begin the process of recovery even as we are preventing starvation.

Our geographic focus on the north is aimed at reducing the suffering of the most vulnerable groups in the population, as identified by the World Food Program vulnerability assessment map. This means we have been concentrating in the past month on opening entry points for food flows from the northern and western borders -- through Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Iran. The international aid community has pre-positioned relief stocks and trucks in these areas to be ready to open the spigots when circumstances allow.

We are very pleased that the World Food Program has been able to increase its delivery of food into Afghanistan so significantly - from an all-time high of 29,000 metric tons in October to 27,000 metric tons just in the first 11 days of November. The challenge that we now face is that of the capacity of NGOs to distribute within Afghanistan. Clearly, the absence of expatriate NGO staff and lack of security have been the greatest obstacles to getting food into peoples' hands.

Current Situation

The stunning changes in the war campaign over this past weekend therefore present important new opportunities to respond to the most pressing needs of the north and northwest, but only when these military successes of the Northern Alliance are consolidated and converted into more secure circumstances within Afghanistan. Already, food is crossing the Turkmenistan border into Badghis and Faryab provinces, where NGOs and international organizations like Save the Children and International Organization for Migration are working.

When the road from Mazar-e Sharif to Termez is secure, a high volume of food can begin to flow into the northern territories because of the road network radiating from Mazar. Use of barges to cross the Amu Darya River and the opening of the Friendship Bridge at Termez by the President of Uzbekistan are essential to this strategy. While barge traffic began yesterday, we are hopeful that the bridge also will be opened quickly as it will allow up to 25,000 metric tons a month to pass into Northern Afghanistan.

The World Food Program and the Russian emergency response agency, EMERCOM, are working together to expand cross-border deliveries from Tajikistan. However, reports indicate that the Kunduz-Bahglan area south of the Tajikistan border remains very much insecure and may take longer than other northern provinces to open up.

Finally, the resurgence of the Northern Alliance in the Herat-Ghor areas may enable the World Food Program (WFP) to reach very vulnerable populations in the Hazarajat central highlands and west more effectively. In fact, WFP reports that it has already dispatched to the Hazarajat and Ghor areas more than 13,000 metric tons of food, or nearly a half of the winter's requirements.

Next Steps

Upon my return from the region, I will redouble our coordination efforts with United Nations and NGO partners to ensure that they have the support they need to capitalize on these openings within Afghanistan. We have 65,000 metric tons of U.S. wheat being off-loaded in Iran for transshipment to Mashad and the Central Asian entry points and another 100,000 metric tons of food being prepared for loading in the United States. We have just ordered another 55,000 metric tons of wheat and 17,000 metric tons of oil, pulses and blended foods to ensure that the WFP and NGO pipelines are filled through February or March, 2002. We have also given WFP a grant of $6 million for procurement of 15,000 metric tons of wheat in Kazakhstan to meet immediate needs, but most of our food aid will come from the United States.

We will also actively engage with our NGO partners to increase our focus on spot reconstruction or developmental relief. It will be critical for vulnerable Afghans not only to eat for survival, but also to have clean water to drink, improved local roads to markets, seeds and other agricultural inputs for spring planting - the basic elements that will begin the rebuilding process from the bottom up. These programs will also show Afghans the tangible benefits of the ouster of the Taliban.

Finally, USAID will engage actively with our State and Treasury Department colleagues in the upcoming dialogue with other donors, IFIs and Afghans themselves on how best to make the transition from a crippled Afghanistan to a recovering, rebuilt Afghanistan.

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