As Afghan refugee crisis grows, MCC increases aid

Mennonite Central Committee
Friday, 12 October 2001

AKRON, Pa. -- Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is calling for winter blankets and handmade comforters in response to the increasing number of Afghans who have fled their homes due to drought, war and recent threats of a U.S. military strike.

MCC will also contribute $158,000 Cdn./$100,000 U.S. for relief supplies. The items will be purchased in Pakistan and distributed by Medair, a European church-based relief agency.

Within the next week more than 20,000 comforters for Afghan refugees will be shipped to Iran from Pennsylvania and British Columbia. The comforters will be distributed through the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS), a member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. MCC volunteers in Iran, Wallace and Evelyn Shellenberger, of Paoli, Ind., will help distribute the comforters to Afghan refugees. Two more MCC volunteers will arrive by December to assist in further distributions.

MCC needs an additional 20,000 new store-bought heavy blankets by Dec. 1 for a second shipment to Iran. A suggested $20 cash donation per blanket will purchase additional blankets and relief supplies on location as needed.

MCC also welcomes comforters to replenish its stock.

"Without a doubt, a homemade comforter communicates love, concern and comfort," said MCC material resources manager Kevin King, who has visited comforter recipients from Serbia to Sudan. "One woman in Belgrade told me that when she can't sleep at night, she looks at the stitches and wonders about the life of the person who sewed it."

King added that the blanket drive gives people who don't sew a chance to contribute.

Through these efforts, MCC joins numerous relief agencies hoping to avert what the United Nations has called "a humanitarian crisis of stunning proportions." In recent weeks MCC committed the following:

- 616 metric tons of food are currently in a Pakistan warehouse. Medair plans to move 200 metric tons into Afghanistan within the next few weeks.

- $312,000 Cdn./$200,000 U.S. will purchase food, shelter and blankets for Afghan refugees in Iran and families displaced in Afghanistan. IRCS will distribute these supplies.

- 5,000 metric tons of lentils from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank valued at $3.25 million Cdn./$2.05 million U.S. will feed Afghan refugees in Iran and families displaced in Afghanistan. IRCS will distribute these supplies.

For drop-off locations, contact your nearest MCC office. For more information in the United States call 1-877-517-5673. In Canada call 1-888-622-6337. Checks should be marked Afghan Crisis account #5701-2000.

For more information, or to contact Mennonite Central Committee, see their website at: www.mcc.org

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