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U.N. short on funds for Afghan aid

Cold and hungry earthquake survivors in northeastern Afghanistan desperately need warm clothing and food, but the money to parachute in supplies has been slow in coming, U.N. officials said Tuesday.

Five days after aid agencies launched an appeal for $2.5 million, barely $1 million has been received, officials said, and no country has donated the key item - a cargo aircraft to airdrop supplies."If we don't get the money, people are going to die," said Rupert Colville, a U.N. official coordinating the distribution of aid to victims in Rustaq, a town in the heart of the worst-hit region. "People have been living in makeshift shelters, with plastic sheeting as their only protection against the cold and the snow."

Snow, fog and muddy mountain roads have frustrated efforts to get aid to 30,000 survivors of a 6.1-magnitude earthquake that touched off landslides Feb. 4. At least 5,000 people died and thousands more are missing.

The devastation prompted the United Nations and the Red Cross to launch a joint appeal for $2.5 million to parachute in supplies.

Given the state of Afghanistan's roads, it was considered the best way to get help to the most remote areas quickly and effectively. But so far, the only countries to contribute have been the United States, Britain, Sweden and Denmark.

"People are dying every day, and still we are waiting for countries to give," said Humayun Ahini, a spokesman for the northern-based military alliance that controls the quake-devastated region.

On Monday, 27 children died from the cold or cold-related diseases, he said.

In the interim, aid agencies are leasing two helicopters from a company in Tajikistan, each of which can carry three tons of supplies.

The aid agencies are also leasing a C-130 cargo plane from a U.S. firm.