ENI—An international network of church aid agencies has criticized humanitarian airdrops linked to U.S.-led military strikes in Afghanistan, saying they compromise other aid efforts in the region.
Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, based in Geneva but uniting church-related relief efforts worldwide, called the drops of food packages from military planes "ineffective" and even potentially "dangerous" for the civilian population.
The airdrops were "jeopardizing the credibility of humanitarian aid in the region and were not an effective means of meeting the desperate needs of the people of Afghanistan," said Thor-Arne Prois, director of ACT's co-ordinating office, in a statement released on Oct. 15.
Pilots dropping food have no way of ensuring that it reaches the needy, said Prois. In addition, people could be injured if they try to gather food that has fallen on mine fields.
"At best these airdrops are a symbolic gesture," Prois said.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has reportedly admitted that airdrops are less effective than delivery of aid by land.
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that more than 7 million people in Afghanistan need food aid. The UNHCR also states that of the 12 million refugees in the world today, 3.6 million are refugees from Afghanistan. These figures show that Afghans compose the largest group of refugees in the world.
Church World Service, the global humanitarian service and witness ministry of the U.S. National Council of Churches, is working with other ACT members to get aid to the needy, especially to mountainous regions which could be cut off with the first snow, perhaps as early as November.
Dear God, behold the crying
An original hymn
By Herbert Brokering
Tune: Passion Chorale 18.104.22.168.D.
O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
Dear God, behold the crying, the anger in our eyes,
and danger reappearing as we cannot surmise.
Behold your world is mourning, we bow, we bend, we kneel.
O hear our grief unspoken and mysteries we feel.
We mold our steel to weapons, you turn them to plowshares.
We plan retaliation, you give us rules to care.
We bury dead remorseful, you raise us from the dead.
May we, when finished crying, believe the words you said.
Dear acorn in the forest, awake and face the light.
Dear children who are weeping, God holds you through the night.
For when the dark is over, there wakes a morning sun,
and what was dead is rising, and life again begun.
Dear Lord, you chose the hillside to say the words we cry.
You know the hurt between us, you know the reason why.
When all our tears are finished and minds again hold still,
surround us with your mercy and heal us with your will.
For all who now go weeping with tears so deep inside,
give them a glimpse of seeing into the other side.
Forgiveness is the power you give us from the tree,
now open dim some beauty ahead for us to see.
The Rev. Herbert Brokering, author of 42 books, is a minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, a denomination that, along with the UCC, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Reformed Church in America, is one of the four denominations in the full communion relationship "A Formula of Agreement," voted in 1997.