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Afghanistan: UN Relief Chief Meets Tribal Elders

UN relief chief meets with tribal elders and provincial officials in Afghanistan

28 June 2008 - The United Nations relief chief today met with local officials and tribal elders in Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan on the third day of his visit to assess the humanitarian situation in the impoverished and strife-torn country.

John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, discussed the current fighting between international forces and insurgent anti-Government groups during his talks with tribal elders, according to a press release issued by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The elders told Mr. Holmes that they were caught in the middle of the conflict, enduring civilian casualties as a result of operations by both the international forces and the anti-Government groups, home searches by international forces, and arrests and detention without charge.

The Under-Secretary-General also met with the Governor of Kunar and seven members of the Provincial Council, including three women. This group stressed the importance of the international forces in helping to maintain law and order and said they wanted to see more aid agencies working in the area, which borders Pakistan.

Today Mr. Holmes also visited a provincial hospital being run by a non-governmental organization (NGO), meeting with hospital staff and patients, before returning to the national capital, Kabul, for the next part of his visit.

Mr. Holmes is touring Afghanistan with Elizabeth Rasmussen, Executive Director of the Norwegian Refugee Council, who is representing an NGO consortium known as the International Council of Voluntary Associations (ICVA).

The visit is aimed in part at highlighting the difficulties faced by aid agencies in assisting Afghans in need, particularly in the south, where the security situation is the most fragile and the Taliban and other groups have been especially active.

"I have been honoured by the warm welcome extended by all the Afghans I have met so far," Mr. Holmes said. "Seeing first-hand their problems - as well as their progress - has underscored the importance of improving the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need."

ENDS

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