SALT LAKE CITY — A major shipment of relief supplies is on its way to help alleviate the increasing needs of Afghanistan refugees in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan.
The initial response of the Church's Humanitarian Services is comprised of 19 semitrailer loads — 380,000 pounds of blankets, newborn kits, hygiene kits, plastic sheeting and water pouches — needed non-food items for refugees camps. The shipment includes approximately 40,000 wool blankets and heavy winter clothing.
The shipment will be carried on an ocean freighter to Karachi, Pakistan, and then trucked to camps.
"This is a major response, one of our largest this year," said Garry R. Flake, director of Humanitarian Services. "A part of our shipment is a diversion of seven containers of heavy winter clothing that were going to an Eastern European destination. Our interest in moving immediately is to get things there at the onset of winter."
Those seven containers have been en route for about a week to 10 days, he said. The original shipments to Eastern Europe will be replaced at a later time.
"It is the Church reaching out, people-to-people around the world regardless of religion or nationality, because there is a need," he said. "The generosity of the members and friends of the Church is what makes this possible."
The Church is working with four agencies to ensure that the supplies reach the refugees. These agencies are Counterpart International, Mercy Corps International, Nour International Aid, and Project Concern. The Church has worked with all four previously in emergency responses, and is comfortable that they are effective in what they are doing, said Brother Flake.
He said the supplies will go to refugees outside Afghanistan because the only relief agency allowed inside the country is the Afghan Red Crescent Society, and it is very limited in what it is allowed to do.
"This is as much as any international society is able to do at this time," he said. "When people give their surplus clothing and in-kind items to Deseret Industries, that allows us to do this."