UN Struggles to Get Aid Supplies To Bosnians and Iraqi Kurds

Bosnia fighting and Iraq tensions slow delivery as snows set in

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

THE United Nations is now racing winter weather to get supplies into the former Yugoslavia and to Kurds in northern Iraq.

In both relief efforts, UN officials indicate deliveries are now behind schedule mainly as a result of delays caused by man, not by nature. However, once snows begin to block roads, it will become much more expensive and difficult to bring in relief supplies to both areas.

The Kurdish effort involves shipping kerosene, wheat seeds, and flour to about 3 million Kurds who are not getting supplies from Baghdad in the south.

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In fact, last week, UN officials halted shipments to the Kurds while they worked on improving security for the truck convoys which have been damaged recently by small hard-to-find bombs planted on them. Supplies are now being shipped to warehouses in Dohuk until safe transport can be arranged through Iraqi-controlled territory to Kurdish lands.

"We must get the supplies through before the snows block the roads," says Jan Eliasson, nndersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs. Mr. Eliasson said Dec. 23 that the window of opportunity to get supplies in was measured in days, not weeks.

UN officials had originally planned to ship 40 million liters of kerosene, which is used for heating and cooking, to the Kurds to get them through the winter. As of last week, they had shipped 18.7 million liters. However, Gregoire Brancoven, a UN official monitoring the shipments, says it is likely the Kurds will need more - possibly as much as 100 million to 120 million liters.

UN officials have been buying the kerosene from Baghdad and some from Turkey. However, there has been an increase in tension with Iraq over the last week.

The Iraqis have deployed a large number of troops near the Kurdish area and appear to be conducting exercises designed to intimidate the Kurds. On Dec. 27, the United States shot down an Iraqi jet over a similarly UN-protected area in southern Iraq where Shiite Muslims live.

UN officials are also trying to get in enough wheat flour to get the Kurds through the winter. Since July, the UN has shipped in 17,500 metric tons. However, Mr. Brancoven says the UN hopes to ship in 34,200 metric tons to get the Kurds through the winter.

UN officials are also having difficulty getting food, medicine, and other supplies into the war-torn former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"Supplies are being provided to the UN warehouses but deliveries are slightly behind," says a UN official who did not wish to be named. The problem once again is security.

Both Serbs and Bosnians have agreed to allow UN forces to guard supply routes, but fighting has prevented the full deployment of the troops.

"We're counting on full deployment, otherwise we have major, major problems. There is no way we can reach all the people in all areas," says the official. If all goes well, he estimates the UN will be able to supply 80 percent of the needs of the 3 million people the UN is supplying.

The UN is trying to get warm clothing, food, heating oil, winter shelters, and medicine to the besieged residents and refugees. A significant portion of the aid will go to refugees in Croatia where there is no major problem getting supplies delivered.

However, there are roughly 1.3 million people in Bosnia-Herzegovina who need food and heating oil to get through the winter. To get supplies to Sarajevo in the winter, UN officials have identified all-weather roads over the Dinaric Alps. So far, the UN officials say there has been commitment from the Serbs to provide security for the relief convoys.

AS the fighting in the region has continued, the cost of providing relief supplies has escalated. In September, the UN estimated it would spend $434 million through end of 1993. However, since that estimate an additional 300,000 people have become refugees.

In an assessment last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated, "The possibility of major new displacements from and within Bosnia-Herzegovina cannot be discounted and indeed must be considered through contingency planning."

The UN now estimates it will cost $708,774,967 to fund its total effort. As of Dec. 1, the UN had a shortfall of $253 million in funding the relief operation.

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