December 24, 2001

No Hunger-Related Deaths? I’ve noticed a number of blogs linking to a United Nations / World Food Program report stating that there is expected to be no hunger-related deaths in Central Afghanistan this year. This seemed remarkably optimistic, especially for a group actively seeking financial donations, so I decided to track down the report mentioned in the article. Rather than linking to the UN report or to a World Food Program page, the link instead goes to an extremely brief Afgha.com article:

Kabul, Dec 23, (IRNA) According to the report released by Afghanistan's World Food Program (WFP) here Sunday, no one is expected to die of hunger in central Afghanistan this year.

The report added that the United Nations and its affiliated agencies have launched an extensive attempt to supply food and clothing to the residents of central Afghanistan, including Bamian.

Last year over 1,000 people, mostly cildren, women and old men, lost their lives in the central provinces of Afghanistan solely due to hunger.


Afgha.com describes itself as being "originally entirely dedicated to Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Commander and founder of the United and Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan, more widely known by the Pakistani and Taliban appellation as the Northern Alliance." A different Afgha article from the previous day, Afghan Winter Threatens Children, references a Save the Children announcement that “up to 100,000 Afghan children could die this winter unless enough aid reaches the country,” leaving open a pretty wide range of possibilities.

The Afgha article seems to have been taken entirely (down to the "cildren" typo) from IRNA, which is The Islamic Republic News Agency, the first Iranian news agency, whose guidelines "are based on and aimed at securing the Islamic Republic of Iran's national interests." There are many others who understand the region and its politics far better than me, but a glance through some of the other articles and reports on IRNA would seem to indicate that the "no hunger-related deaths" article would fit Iran's interests in a "Thanks, Westerners, everything's okay and perfect, you can leave now and let us handle it....oh, and please don't start looking over here" sort of way. See here, here, and here.

I was unable to track the “World Food Program report” story online any further back than the IRNA piece. United Nations News links (or linked; the search feature doesn’t currently show the article) to the same IRNA story. (United Nations News does not appear to be related to the UN itself.) The WFP site has no information about such a report, and my Google searches also turned up nothing. The WFP does issue subscriber-only reports, but it seems unlikely that IRNA was the only organization to receive and/or announce the results of such an amazing report; I am still waiting to hear back from the WFP, however.

The closest I can find to the “no hunger related deaths” is this, from December 20: “In another development, WFP Executive Director Catherine Bertini told reporters in New York that the agency had broken its monthly record for food distribution inside Afghanistan by delivering 55,000 tonnes of wheat so far in December, against a goal of 52,000. "We believe so far we're reaching 5 million of the 6 million people that we have determined to be desperately in need of food throughout Afghanistan." Obviously, great progress is being made, but certainly not the total victory currently spreading throughout the web.

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