United Nations Begins Relief Operation On Afghanistan's Border

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - Believing a humanitarian disaster is growing inside Afghanistan, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees announced Friday it plans to mount what it called a "massive relief operation" to aid Afghans fleeing their homeland.

The U.N. agency has ordered 20,000 tents from suppliers in Pakistan in addition to the more than 9,300 tents already stored in the country, according to spokesman Ron Redmond. The agency next week will also fly in plastic tarpaulins.

"We expect that the Japanese government will also be airlifting stocks of relief supplies," said Redmond.

There was no mention of any American assistance, although the U.S. has been the single biggest benefactor of Afghanistan. So far this year, the U.S. has sent more than $177 million in aid to the country believed to be harboring millionaire terrorist Osama bin Laden.

In addition to the tents and tarpaulins, UNHCR will begin deploying more "emergency preparedness staff" to Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan. All assigned staff should be on the ground and running within the next week.

Redmond said all the countries bordering Afghanistan have officially closed their borders to people without visas, though thousands seem to be entering both Pakistan and Iran over "irregular crossing points."

"Inside Afghanistan, we understand that many Afghans are continuing to leave for the countryside. Based on sketchy reports from inside the country, every major city has seen some movement toward the countryside," he said.

Meanwhile, the U.N. Resident Coordinator for Pakistan, Onder Yucer told reporters in Islamabad, the world body is helping Pakistan because its government has no "fiscal space" for dealing with what Yucer called the "humanitarian crisis" looming at its borders.

Yucer urged international support to help Pakistan cope with the refugee influx.