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UN bakeries reopen for hungry Afghans

The bakeries are a primary source of nutrition for hundreds of thousands of poor Afghans  

KABUL, Afghanistan -- United Nations-run bakeries in Kabul resumed operations Monday, providing a much-needed source of subsidized food to thousands of poor residents of the Afghan capital.

The bakeries, operated by the UN World Food Program, had been closed for two days because of a row between officials from the UN and the ruling Taliban authorities over the use of women to conduct a survey on food aid distribution.

The Taliban ban women from almost all forms of work and will not allow men to converse women who they are not married to.

However, under an agreement reached Sunday women nominated by the Taliban will carry out the survey designed to ensure the food aid is not diverted as a result of the city's rampant corruption.

Monday's reopening of some 120 bakeries brought relief to hundreds of thousands of Kabul residents who rely on the bakeries as their primary source of nutrition.


"I am extremely happy," Masooma, a widow who has four children to feed, told a Reuters reporter.

"Now I can have a hope and a means for survival."

"I could not wait for the morning when I heard last night that both sides have agreed to the launch of the survey," she said.

The disagreement between the UN and the Taliban is the latest in a long line of disputes between international aid agencies and the Taliban, which rules most of the mountainous, landlocked country.

Some Taliban officials have said they do not care if the UN and Western aid groups leave Afghanistan because Islamic charities would take up the burden.

Since capturing Kabul in 1996 the Taliban have imposed severe restrictions on women, banning them from education and barring them from almost all forms of work outside the home.

Reuters contributed to this report.

• The World Food Program

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