Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60
TUESDAY 23 OCTOBER 2001
60. If you could quantify that.
(Ms Cocking) That is based on a ration of 2,100 kilo
61. We have not asked any questions about the
areas controlled by the Northern Alliance as to whether your resources
are going in there and whether there are any obstacles to that.
Are there any problems there?
(Ms Cocking) We are continuing to work in Faisalabad
and it is probably reasonable to say that it is a bit easier in
those areas but it is still very difficult. There are limited
numbers of flights, limited means of access from the north
from Tajikistan so most support has to be done from the
south, but relatively speaking our contacts with our office in
Faisalabad are that things are okay and workable.
62. I wanted to mention a newspaper cutting
which says Oxfam has confirmed the first cases of old people and
young children starving to death. Do you have numbers on that?
(Mr Forsyth) What we have is numbers of people beginning
to die but I do not know the total number. What we had were reports
from some of our workers.
(Ms Cocking) It was up in the North West.
(Mr Forsyth) In a few districts there were reports
of people beginning to die of hunger. But it is very small numbers
at this stage, less than 100.
63. It has also been reported in the press that
a young boy had crossed over the border into Pakistan and his
parents were not there. Is there anything being done to help people
who have lost their relatives or parents?
(Ms Cocking) My understanding is that both the ICRC
and the Save the Children Fund are taking the lead on family tracing.
They will also usually seek to find durable solutions, particularly
for children who have been left without families. That is one
of their distinctive global competencies and something that I
understand they are beginning to do.
64. Given the low status of women in Afghanistan
and given that when people are short of food often the strongest
will fight for their share or a greater share, are there any mechanisms
in place when you are distributing food to ensure that women and
children are fed equally?
(Mr Jarrah) Yes there are. One of our big concerns
at the moment is that because we do not have proper access to
Afghanistan, our field staff at the distribution points for food
cannot ensure that those mechanisms are in place. At the moment
we are having to do fairly crude distributions, for example delivery
of consignments to village elders and trust them to distribute
it in the way they see fit, and that in no way guarantees that
the most vulnerable such as women and children will get a fair
share. That is why humanitarian access is the drum we have been
beating all along to make sure that the most vulnerable do get
(Ms Cocking) If we were to have that access and our
staff on the ground were to be able to distribute as they would
like, then there are all sorts of tricks of the trade for making
sure that food does go to the most vulnerable. For example, we
do not distribute using large sacks because they are easily lootable
and carried away. In oil distribution all the tins are pierced
so you cannot try and ship it and loot it. Again the crucial issue
is the level of access to be able to manage distributions in the
way that we would like.
65. By that criteria air drops being received
would still not prevent possible irregular or unfair distribution?
(Mr Jarrah) In the spectrum of humanitarian interventions
air drops are one of the blunter ones.
66. Thank you very much. Is there anything that
you would have liked to have said to the Committee that our questions
have not provided you with the opportunity to say? Mr Jarrah on
behalf of CARE, is there anything we have omitted this afternoon
that you would like to leave us with?
(Mr Jarrah) I would just like to reiterate that the
long-term solution is one that I think everybody in this room
would agree with. The differences that we have with current practice
are that not enough priority is being given in the short term
to the humanitarian crisis that is facing us now.
(Mr Forsyth) Very briefly three things. Firstly, thank
you for allowing us to come here. I think it is very timely. Secondly,
I think this is a very difficult situation and it will be very
fluid in the coming weeks and the questions you have asked us
are real dilemmas that we do not have all the answers to but we
are also battling with. We are committed to finding whatever way
possible to meet the humanitarian need but it will be different
things than we are currently talking about as the situation unfolds.
I wanted to emphasise that we do hope that Mr Brahimi will play
that humanitarian diplomatic role. The last point, which we have
not talked about very much but you touched on in your questions,
is if we look at the reconstruction, one of the most important
things that we think will be part of that is helping women participate
in the political process and supporting them to do it but also
being involved in the reconstruction efforts. One of the things
we would like to explore doing, and we were talking about with
DFID yesterday, is if we could bring together some of those women's
groups to think about what the political transition could be and
what their role could be in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Chairman: Thank you very much for that.
Thank you very much for the help that you have given us. Can I
make a couple of very quick procedural points. Firstly, in this
inquiry we envisaged it being a fairly speedy inquiry responding
to immediate needs, and I hope you will not feel that simply because
you have given evidence today that we do not want to hear from
you further. If things change, situations change, matters change,
I hope that through our Clerk you will keep the Committee updated
and briefed on the situation as you see it. Secondly, as I think
we made clear in our press release, we are envisaging returning
to this issue next year, or whenever the time is appropriate to
have a rather longer look at some of the underlying problems and
issues. Again I think we would very much welcome your assistance
with those in terms of policies and longer term issues about how
we turn the situation around in Pakistan and Afghanistan and surrounding
areas. So we are going to return to these issues in due course.
Thank you very much.