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Chinese Donation to Aid Afghan Children

Schoolchildren in war-torn Afghanistan will be the largest group to benefit from 57.5 tons of material aid which arrived by air Monday from China.

The donation -- mainly medicine and stationary, is the first in a row of emergency aid packages to be provided by the Chinese government for the neighboring nation recovering from years of war.

The 30 million yuan (US$3.6 million) Chinese relief effort, in which donations also includes daily necessities and building materials, is expected to conclude by March 31.

"The total aid is around 560 tons, which will be airlifted in two aeroplanes every day," said Zhang Min, a Chinese official with the Chinese Embassy to Afghanistan in Kabul, the capital.

"The deliveries will be completed in one week."

China is joining the global effort to offer aid to Afghanistan as the country is running short of cash and materials to rebuild the war-torn economy and school system.

The Chinese side believes the aid efforts will, to some extent, ease the daily life of Afghan people, said Wang Cheng'an, an official with the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation.

Wang said he hoped the Afghan interim government and people will overcome difficulties ahead and march forward on a road of real national reconciliation and sustained peace.

Nearly 1.5 million school-age children in Afghanistan started their school life on Sunday in a grand opening ceremony. Among them were girls that returned to school for the first time in six years, due to Taliban banning women from school and work since 1986.

However, they were not the only children deprived of education. Two thirds of Afghanistan's 3,000 schools were damaged or destroyed during 23 years of warfare.

The Afghan interim government has formulated a back-to-school initiative to educate the poverty-stricken masses, and international aid is flowing in to help fund the program.

Large donor countries and international organizations promised more than US$2.5 billion-worth of assistance during an international conference on reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan two months ago in Tokyo.

China has long been a ready donor. It had multiple trade and economic cooperative ties with Afghanistan when the country was in peacetime, building dykes, hospitals and textile mills for its people.

Besides the material donation, China has decided to provide US$1 million in cash as start-up fund for the Afghan interim government, and promised another US$150 million in its aid to Afghanistan.

It is estimated that Afghanistan needs at least US$15 billion for its reconstruction during the next 10 years.

(China Daily March 26, 2002)

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Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation
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