Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 17, 2003
Iraq war could stop Afghan aid
By ART BABYCH
"It's going to take 12 to 15 years before that country is de-mined."
- Sr. Mary LeRoy
The CCODP is financing a $2 million reconstruction program in the area and had been providing emergency aid to the region through Caritas Internationali before the American bombing of Afghanistan started in October 2001.
"Part of that money was more for emergency relief and the beginnings of movement towards sustainable development."
She said the difficult task for the CCODP now is to decide where to place funding with the groups on the ground. "Development and Peace will have to look at its own priorities and that will happen over the next couple of weeks," she said.
Between the Russian invasion of Afghanistan over 20 years ago, the Taliban rule that followed, fights among warlords, and the U.S.-led bombing in 2001, "the country has just been decimated," LeRoy said.
The delegation was to go to Kandahar, the second largest city in Afghanistan, following a briefing in the capital city of Kabul but decided against it because of increased security risks. "That night a bomb was lobbed into one of the residences (in Kandahar) of NGOs working with a program from France," said LeRoy. The following day a powerful bomb also destroyed a bridge in Kandahar killing 15 people on a bus.
In Pakistan, the CCODP delegation visited refugee camps and a transit camp where many Afghan refugees who were in Iran had stopped on their way home. "They're coming back to a country that is two-thirds mined," said LeRoy. "It's going to take 12 to 15 years before that country is de-mined." Many refugees returning to Afghanistan live and earn their living in rural areas of the country, she said, "but it's impossible for them to return to their places of origin because of the mine situation."
LeRoy was impressed with the way the Christian community in Pakistan, which represents about two per cent of the population, has reached out to help Afghan refugees. The Christians themselves are among the poorest people in the country and are "very vulnerable" at the moment because of the situation in Iraq, she said.
As well, Bishop Anthony Lobo, the Bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, told the delegation that many Christians in Pakistan were worried because extremists threatened to kill 10 Christians in Pakistan for every Muslim that dies in an attack on Iraq, LeRoy said.
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