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Axworthy urges action to help starving Afghans
Canadian leadership needed as 100,000 face starvation, ex-minister says
By James McCarten
Canadian Press
This article was published in the
Toronto Star on
Nov. 8, 2001
Canada has the right and an obligation to use its global political influence to help stave off Afghanistan's looming humanitarian crisis, says former foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy.

More than 100,000 people trapped in the war-ravaged country's remote mountain valleys are facing starvation unless someone takes a leadership role, Axworthy told a news conference Thursday.

"If, on Sept. 1, someone had come up with a warning that there was going to be a major disaster in New York City and Washington, we would have moved heaven and Earth to do everything to prevent it," Axworthy said.

"We now have the same warning signals about an equal humanitarian disaster, and what disturbs me is we're not doing much about it."

As a special envoy on behalf of aid agency Oxfam Canada, Axworthy returned Wednesday after spending two weeks in Pakistan to gauge the magnitude of the coming crisis in Afghanistan.

The war that has raged there since Oct. 7 has all but sealed off the routes agencies have been using for years to deliver food aid into remote parts of the country, Axworthy said.

A massive campaign of air drops would likely be the only way to get food to the area, but it would require the help and support of the military coalition, which currently controls Afghan airspace.

Axworthy urged Ottawa to use next week's major gathering of international finance leaders to start planning a new "economic social blueprint" for Afghanistan, the third-poorest country in the world.

Representatives from the Group of 20 countries, as well as leaders from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, are scheduled to meet in Ottawa Nov. 17-18.

The meetings, originally destined to take place in India and Washington, were rescheduled and relocated in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.