to Stop Bread for Poor After Afghan Talks Fail
By Sayed ▀alaahuddin
KABUL (Reuters) - The
U.N. World Food Program said on Thursday it would stop supplying bread to the
Afghan capital's poor on Friday because talks with the Taliban rulers on
employing women for a survey had failed. WFP director for Afghanistan Gerard Van
Dijk said he was disappointed by the Taliban's rejection of a WFP proposal for
employing local women to conduct the survey. Bakeries supplying subsidized bread
to nearly 300,000 poor people would stop work after the last distribution on
Friday. ``Negotiations have failed,'' he told Reuters. ``They did not accept our
proposal. There is no other way out except closing the bakeries.''
Van Dijk said the WFP
had proposed female staff of the Taliban's Public Health Ministry and a group of
WFP-selected women conduct the survey to identify the real beneficiaries of the
project. But officials from Afghanistan purist Taliban movement, which controls
most of Afghanistan, insisted that only women recommended by the Taliban be
permitted to carry out the survey, he said.
Van Dijk said the
bakeries could reopen any time after the Taliban accepts the WFP proposal.
``There is a way if there is a will. We will restart the program whenever they
allow us to do the survey.'' He said U.N. agencies in Kabul had taken
precautions in view of possible food riots after the bakeries are shut down.
``We are taking a low
profile, reducing our movement in the city in the face of the occurrence of
The WFP had said earlier
it would halt its program to supply cheap breadto nearly 300,000 widows,
invalids and other vulnerable people in Kabul if the Taliban refused to
allow it to hire Afghan women.
directives, only women can enter homes to interview other women.Van Dijk said
earlier on Thursday that the Taliban proposal, and a suggestion that the WFP
hire females who speak the local language from neighboring countries, were
costly or impractical. ``Bringing people from other places requires more
costs. Some options are practical and some are less practical. We hope to go to
houses to find the needy people and for that we have to employ local women
ourselves,'' he added.
The Taliban has refused
to allow the WFP to hire local women on the grounds that female employment is
banned. Many aid groups see a contradiction in the ruling that the WFP cannot
employ women for the survey, but can use the Taliban's own female staff
for the purpose.
The hardline Islamic
Taliban has said it will not reverse its decision and does not care if all U.N.
aid to the devastated country is halted. It has appealed to Islamic countries to
fill any gap that results and says the United Nations is using aid as a
WFP beneficiaries say
closure of the bakeries would force more people to resort to begging and
increase hunger at a time the country faces its worst drought in 30 years.
``What will befall my
five children if I lose the subsidized bread?'' a woman asked.
``Who will feed them? We
have lived for years on bread and tea mostly and if the bread is taken away,
maybe we will starve,'' the desperate woman, clutching her all-enveloping burqa,
said outside a bakery.
``This subsidized bread
is my only hope after Allah
. I think neither the Taliban nor the WFP care about
us. They all follow their own policies and we may perish in the middle,''
another woman said. ``Many needy people like us will be forced to beg.''