Medecin Sans Frontieres, the 1999 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has today cynically accused the US of conducting nothing more than military propaganda when we describe our operations in Afghanistan as humanitarian.
The tragic truth is they are right.
The Bush Administration's celebrations concerning the US Air Force drops of food packages totaling 75,000 food ration packages over two days, of Sunday and Monday, are not deserved.
MSF accuses us of little more than window dressing, seeking to divertpublic attention from a scandalous humanitarian disaster that could soon rival the Rwandan/Congolese refugee catastrophe of 1994 and 1995.
Before the September 11th crisis the UN World Food Program estimated that there were 2 million civilians in Afghanistan totally dependent on foreign food aid. The WPF program was trucking in 500 tons a day - or enough to feed only 1m. So just 4 weeks ago each day that went by some 1m Afghan men, women and children went without food.
But now the situation is much worse.
Our military operations have started and the number dependent on food has grown rapidly while international food distribution has actually fallen to almost nothing.
The BBC reports today that Unicef believes that the number of Aghans in need has now grown to 5.5 million people, of which an estimated 70% (or some 3.85 million) are women and children.
Mr. Speaker, that staggering number of people, 5.5 million, easily exceeds, if not even doubles, the populations of some of the largest cities in this country. Could you imagine how horrified we would be and how we as a nation would would react if the entire populations of cities such as Dallas, or San Deigo, or San Francisco, or Detroit were starving to death?
Well Mr. Speaker, that is the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe now confronting Afghanistan.
These 5.5 million people desperately require about 2,750 tons of food aid per day, based on WFP estimates of 500 tons per million people per day. And this says nothing of the medical aid that they require.
Clearly, our two airdrops of 37,000 ration packages, though well intentioned and bravely carried out by USAF aircrews, are not nearly enough to prevent a humanitarian disaster. Maybe as alleged by MSF it does help soothe our collective conscience, but it does little more.
The US and the world community must do more for the Afghanistan people.
Mr. Speaker, the clock is ticking for 5.5 million innocent people.