Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Joint supplementary memorandum submitted by Christian Aid and Islamic Relief

  During the Select Committee's examination of witnesses on 30 October 2001, Christian Aid and Islamic Relief were asked by Committee member, Rt Hon Tony Worthington MP, to submit a paper on the constraints surrounding food aid delivery and distribution in Afghanistan, currently, and the role of the United Nations World Food Programme.

  In the light of this request Christian Aid and Islamic Relief make the following observations.

    —  Insecurity is the most critical factor affecting the delivery and distribution of food aid.

    —  Under these difficult circumstances all humanitarian actors have been performing as well as possible to deliver and distribute aid. In such circumstances humanitarian agencies can play a valuable role in alerting the international community to the difficulties and calling for action to overcome them.

    —  it is important to distinguish between delivery, carried out by WFP to warehouses in the major Afghan cities, and distribution which is carried out by NGOs who either receive food from WFP warehouses, or in the rural districts directly from WFP trucks.

    —  Insecurity has had a particularly negative affect on distribution, particularly in rural areas, whereas deliveries take place along the better and, on the whole, more secure major roads.

    —  There are some rural areas where almost no distributions have taken place since September, eg Ghor and Badghis, and which are usually cut off in winter. The rural areas in which distributions have taken place are mainly where WFP has been able to truck the food in and distribute it directly to the NGOs, bypassing the warehouses. This has happened in the areas that were relatively more secure.

    —  Delivery and distribution rates have varied considerably since the attacks on 11 September. From 11 September to early October rates were significantly below the level that WFP had identified was required to meet ongoing needs. Distribution rates improved significantly in the period from 20 October to 12 November, as WFP was able to distribute directly to NGOs in these more secure rural areas. Following the gains made by the Northern Alliance on 12 November the security situation has yet to stabilise and distribution rates have again dropped significantly.

    —  As a result the totals of food distributed over the whole period since 11 September and at the time of writing has been insufficient to meet the ongoing needs identified by WFP or to build up the stock-piles thought to be required for areas normally cut-off by winter.

What impact did 11 September, the start of bombing and subsequent military developments have on food distribution within Afghanistan?

  After three years of severe drought and decades of war, Afghanistan faced a food crisis. Following a joint WFP/FAO assessment mission in May 2001, WFP launched an appeal to provide food aid for 5.56 million people. Following the attacks on 11 September, WFP revised its plans and on 4 October 2001 launched an appeal to enable it to deliver 52,000 MT per month of food required to feed up to 7.5 million people over winter. These were the targets WFP were using to plan its work from October onwards. This amounted to a daily average delivery/distribution target of 1,700 MT to meet ongoing food aid needs. This does not include the necessity to build up a winter stockpile to guarantee food security for the most vulnerable highland areas, covered in more detail later in this submission.

  Analysis of the stocks in country, and delivery and distribution data from September to the present combined with the information received from Christian Aid's partners, Islamic Relief and other NGOs in Afghanistan indicates that military activity and insecurity has had a very significant impact on the ability to deliver and distribute food, a view shared by WFP. Distribution, especially in rural areas has been the key problem, with some rural areas receiving no distributions from 11 September onwards.

  The analysis suggests that, at a countrywide level, insufficient food has been distributed to meet ongoing needs and create the winter stockpiles that WFP would have planned to deliver by this time to meet the needs they identified. In some provinces and districts, eg Ghor, the situation is acute, with severely drought-affected communities cut-off by insecurity and shortly to be cut-off by winter snows still to receive any food distributions since 11 September.

  The fast-changing nature of the security environment and the obstacles to humanitarian aid make it relevant to breakdown the difficulties experienced over time. All of the data has been taken from the regular WFP situation reports and is referenced to a summary of this information attached as Appendices.

11 September-7 October (date of start of bombing campaign)

    —  The immediate impact of the attack on 11 September was the withdrawal of all international staff by the UN and NGOs. This restricted the ability of WFP and NGOs to co-ordinate deliveries and distributions and reduced the quality of monitoring normally expected to cover food distributions.

    —  The expectation of a military attack also created heightened tension and a climate of insecurity, which meant that truck-drivers were less willing to deliver aid.

    —  The capacity problems that resulted and the uncertain security environment significantly reduced the levels of delivery and distribution.

    —  In the period from 11 September-7 October WFP reported delivering 6,121 MT into Afghanistan which represents an average daily delivery rate of 227 MT. Distributions were higher as stocks already inside Afghanistan could be used, but were insufficient to meet the ongoing needs. Distributions from WFP warehouses in this period totalled 15,458 MT, an average of 573 MT per day.


  The above graph analyses the average of daily distribution over the preceding 7-day period, from 7 October to 27 November 2001.

    —  The start of the bombing campaign further increased tension and insecurity. Access to the more rural areas became particularly difficult.

    —  During the first fortnight of the bombing, deliveries averaged 573 MT per day; compared to the WFP target of 1,700 MT required to meet ongoing needs. Distribution figures were even more worrying, averaging 436 MT per day, just 25 per cent of the WFP target.

    —  Distribution rates improved significantly when WFP altered their strategy on 20 October and started delivering direct to NGOs in the rural areas that were accessible, particularly Hazarjat (at that point mainly controlled by the Taliban). These areas that were relatively more secure, probably because they were predominantly controlled by one or other of the warring parties. The military liaison between WFP and the Coalition may also have been a factor in reducing the fear of bombing for truck-drivers, and giving them the confidence to operate these routes.

    —  In the last ten days of October, deliveries averaged 1,442 MT per day and distributions 1,461 MT per day. However, the food delivered direct to NGOs was treated in WFP reports as distributed as soon as it was handed over to the NGOs, who often then had significant work and logistical challenges to overcome before the food would finally reach beneficiaries.

    —  In the first 12 days of November, prior to the huge change in the military situation following the capture of Mazaar, WFP was able to deliver an average of 2,382 MT per day and distribute 2,252 MT per day, mainly direct to NGOs as above. This is the point at which WFP gave their evidence to the Select Committee and they could be justifiably proud of achieving such distribution rates in these difficult circumstances.

    —  However, detailed analysis of where this food was being distributed inside Afghanistan showed that there were several provinces in which virtually no distributions were taking place because they were too insecure. Christian Aid highlighted Ghor and Badghis in particular, as this is where our partners were trying to work and had signed contracts with WFP to distribute food. These provinces were also particularly badly hit by the famine, (WFP has estimated that up to 80 per cent of the population might require food aid).

    —  While distributions from 1-12 November exceeded the target required to meet ongoing needs, this did not address the need to stock-pile foods in areas which are inaccessible in winter. The fact that the same areas of Ghor which had not received distributions since 11 September are also mountainous brought a particular urgency to the need to get food to these areas. Combining WFP's ongoing requirements with the need to build up a winter stockpile created a daily transportation need of more than 3,000 MT. Even with the vast improvement in delivery rates in the first 12 days of November, insufficient food was being delivered to meet this target.

    —  Christian Aid and Islamic Relief used this analysis to highlight particular areas of need, and to emphasise the needs for improved delivery rates that would enable stock-piles to be created for mountainous areas. This work required a secure environment for convoys, and for that reason Christian Aid, Islamic Relief and other NGOs called for a pause in the bombing, curtailment of military action in certain areas and for warring parties to respect the humanitarian mandate and allow WFP and NGOs to negotiate access to vulnerable communities.

    —  Over this whole period from 8 October to 12 November, the average delivery rate was 1,417 MT per day and for distribution, 1,326 MT per day. This is insufficient even to meet ongoing food needs let alone create stock-piles and highlights the need to improve access and increase delivery rates. While WFP were delivering and distributing as much as possible in the difficult security context, they could not reach the levels that they had planned in order to meet the needs they had identified.

13 November-27 November (date of latest information available from WFP)

    —  The capture of Mazaar, Herat and Kabul by Northern Alliance forces has not yet brought a secure environment in which to deliver and distribute food. WFP and NGOs have not been able to re-deploy all their international and national staff inside Afghanistan and many NGOs have had their logistical capacity severely reduced. Insecurity and actual incidents of military activity damaging aid convoys have led to a significant reduction in the delivery and distribution rates WFP have been able to achieve.

    —  As can be seen from the graph, delivery and distribution rates have deteriorated dramatically from 12 November. In the period from 13-27 November WFP reported an average daily delivery rate of 1,531 MT and a distribution rate of just 749 MT per day. This is back down below 50 per cent of ongoing requirements.

    —  Therefore under the pressure of military activity and wider security problems, food delivery and distribution rates have once again fallen significantly below the rates required to meet ongoing needs. Christian Aid's partners are beginning to distribute food in Ghor and Badghis, but the situation needs to improve significantly to enable sufficient distributions to take place to meet the needs WFP has identified.


Select Committee Submission

  Christian Aid started to produce numerical analysis of WFP deliveries and to map distribution information for the media and for briefings to MPs from 24 October 2001. At that point the best available information led Christian Aid to conclude that the real delivery target into Afghanistan for the 30 days from 18 October was 3,543 MT per day. This target was based on a calculation which included the 12,725 MT of food stocks WFP had reported were in Afghanistan as at 17 October 2001. It also included a WFP estimate of the winter stock-pile required for the mountainous North-West and Central sectors of 67,000 MT which, at that time, WFP indicated should be in place by mid-November.

Monthly requirement 52,000 MT
Winter stock-pile required67,000 MT
Food already stored inside Afghanistan (12,725) MT
Total transport requirement by 17 November 106,257 MT
Implied daily delivery target over 30 days 3,543 MT

  This was the basis of the analysis included in Christian Aid and Islamic Relief's joint submission to the International Development Select Committee on 30 October 2001.

  Once again it is important to distinguish between delivery and distribution. The fact that WFP warehouses have remained stocked throughout the last few months but distribution rates have been lower than target, illustrates that the key problem has been distribution. Those distributions that were taking place were predominantly in the cities that were easily accessible from these warehouses, not the rural areas.

Subsequent information and analysis

  UN estimates of the stock-piles required for winter have subsequently altered to 55,000 MT. WFP has deployed snow experts and heavy snow clearing equipment in an attempt to keep access open but is not certain whether this will be effective on Afghanistan's poor mountain roads. Until this can be demonstrated, it remains important to create stock-piles in mountain areas that are accessible.

  The high rate of distributions WFP achieved into the central sectors of Hazarjat in the period up to 12 November means that it is likely that some stock-piles may have been created in this key mountainous area. On 16 November WFP estimated that 40 per cent of the stock-piles required were in place. However, it should be recognised that if food being distributed represents stock-piles it cannot also be treated as meeting ongoing food needs—which would further reduce the extent to which ongoing targets are being met.

  As can be seen from the actual delivery and distribution rates being achieved over the entire period since September 11 and again from November 13 onwards, it has not been possible to meet the ongoing needs of all the vulnerable people in Afghanistan, despite the best efforts of WFP. Similarly it has not been possible to create the stockpiles needed to safeguard people in areas that are likely to be cut off by winter snows.


  This analysis, shared by Christian Aid and Islamic Relief, points to the fact that, comparing WFP estimates of needs with the actual levels of food they report being delivered and distributed inside Afghanistan, insufficient food is being distributed both at the time of writing this submission, and for most of the period from 11 September.

  Whether the Afghan people will find ways and means to survive is a more difficult question to assess. Christian Aid staff returning from the region highlight the growing perception that distribution has been relatively effective in urban areas but unverifiable in many rural areas. It is this continuing gap in our knowledge that gives rise to continuing humanitarian concern.

  Christian Aid, through its partners in Ghor and Badghis is beginning to re-establish contact with the communities that have been cut-off from communication over the last two months and who have received very little food aid in that time. Even in August, villagers said they feared that they would not have enough food to last them through the Winter. Until we are able to establish that they have sufficient food to survive, we will continue to highlight the need to restore effective delivery and distribution networks, particularly for such remoter rural areas.

  Christian Aid and Islamic Relief

  3 December 2001

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