World can end ‘downward humanitarian spiral’ of Afghanistan

Despite persistent humanitarian needs triggered by years of conflict and recurring drought, the current situation in Afghanistan is unmatched, with more than 24.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance to survive. according to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (AND A).

Food security levels have fallen at an alarming rate, leaving half the population facing acute hunger, including nine million in an emergency with food insecurity – the highest number in the world.

In addition, malnutrition is increasing and livelihoods have been destroyed.

Appeals for help

To help alleviate the situation Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday launched a high-level event, Support the humanitarian effort in Afghanistan – together with the United Kingdom, Germany and Qatar.

Last year, when the country was facing deep unrest and international isolation, donors showed remarkable generosity towards Afghans.

A $ 1.8 billion disbursement to aid groups could help 20 million people with life-saving food, clean water, health care, protection and education.

International donors are urged to keep the money flowing and grow again this year.

The UN-coordinated relief effort – the largest but not the only one in Afghanistan – is appealing for $ 4.4 billion, three times the amount requested in 2021.

Afghans “sell body parts” to survive

“Without immediate action, we are facing a famine and malnutrition crisis in Afghanistan“Said Mr. Guterres, in his speech to the conference.

“People are already selling their children and body parts to support their families. Afghanistan’s economy has virtually collapsed. There is very little cash.”

He said that even international aid agencies “could hardly function” and that local partners face even greater challenges.

Humanitarian needs have tripled since June last year, the UN chief warned, “and they are growing, day by day”.

He said the international community must find ways to spare the Afghan people from the consequences of the decision to halt development aid and freeze nearly $ 9 billion in Afghan assets abroad.

“It must make cash available so that the Afghan economy can breathe and the Afghan people can eat,” he explained. “Rich, powerful countries can not ignore the consequences of their decisions for the most vulnerable.

“The first step in any meaningful humanitarian response must be to stop the death spiral of the Afghan economy. Without it, even the best-funded and most effective relief effort will not save the people of Afghanistan from an unimaginable future.”

Guterres reiterated that the UN stands with the people of Afghanistan.

“I welcome Safety advices latest resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, focusing on coordinating humanitarian aid and promoting human rights.

We must now back this unit up promises that will make an immediate and tangible difference. ”

© WFP / Sadeq Naseri

The World Food Program distributes food to vulnerable families during the harsh winter in Kabul, Afghanistan.

We have the power to stop the downward humanitarian spiral in Afghanistan and it is our moral duty to use this power by promising generous, flexible and unconditional funding today, says UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths.

Speaking from Kabul, the emergency coordinator said he was deeply disturbed after visiting a hospital where he was seriously injured. acutely malnourished children who are fed in intensive care.

“The humanitarian situation here is grim, because tens of millions of people are hanging on to just one thread … six out of ten Afghans need humanitarian aid today.”

Mr. Griffiths said the economy is still “too weak to sustain the lives of ordinary Afghans” who suffer the most.

Today, half of the population faces acute hunger, including nine million who are in a state of “emergency shortage”; this is the highest number in the world.

The United States promises more than $ 500 million

The United States led the list of promises at the end of Thursday’s conference, providing just over $ 512 million in aid, for 2022. Other donors included co-hosts Britain with over $ 374 million, Germany with just under $ 220 million and Qatar, which pledged $ 25 million.

There were a total of 41 announcements of aid, including 15 pledges specifically for Afghanistan’s humanitarian fund. Some nations, including Spain and Iceland, also pledged to finance Afghanistan, for 2023 and beyond.

In an interview with UN News’ Russian service, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Ramiz Alakbarov, said the team in Afghanistan was “very pleased with the results” of the pledge conference. He said they appreciated the strong solidarity of the donor community with the people of Afghanistan.

He added that the conference also strongly echoed the “united global sentiment that girls in Afghanistan must have unlimited access to education.”

Make a difference

As fundraisers have so far secured only 13 percent of the requirements of the 2022 humanitarian response plan, promises of support – which will continue for the rest of the year – are needed to increase deliveries.

In the first eight weeks of 2022, humanitarian partners reached 12.7 million people with life-saving assistance, priority women, girls and minority groups.

Deliveries have included nutritious food to hundreds of thousands of malnourished children and pregnant and breastfeeding women; healthy meals for school children; seeds and tools for farmers; and trauma treatment and reproductive care.

Participants are encouraged to generously promise to send a strong signal of solidarity that the world stands with the Afghan people.

Negotiate on “fault lines”

Prior to the conference, Head of the UN Development Program (UNDP), Achim Steiner, made a two-day trip to the country, where he emphasized the importance of girls’ and women’s rights in Afghanistan.

The recent decisions to prevent high school girls from grade 6 onwards are of great concern, he said, confirming that the UNDP is committed to working with UN agencies to defend and promote their access to education and employment.

“UNDP’s partnerships are often multidimensional, and sometimes we face challenges that, like girls’ education in Afghanistan, can become fault lines,” he said. sa.

Both boys and girls must be allowed in the classrooms because Afghanistan’s future must be for all Afghans, not just a select few”.

Increased poverty

The UNDP chief also flagged the urgent need for measures to prevent enormous poverty and economic instability.

“We reported at the end of last year that an estimated 97 percent of Afghans could live in poverty by mid-2022, and unfortunately that figure is being reached faster than expected,” he said.

“And with commodity prices soaring globally, we know that people here can not afford to meet their basic human needs such as food, healthcare and education.”

Support female entrepreneurs

In Mazar-e-Sharif, Steiner met with women business owners and members of the Chamber of Commerce who spoke about their struggle to keep companies afloat.

“The women small business owners I spoke to are persistent in their determination to continue earning an income and providing for their families and communities at all odds,” said Mr Steiner, who pressured the international community to help prevent further economic hardship for them.

“This year alone, we aim to support more than 50,000 SMEs, many of which are led by women.”

Swim in debt

Following the Taliban’s takeover in August last year, Afghanistan is facing a potentially irreversible economic collapse, a frozen banking system and a lack of liquidity that could leave about 80 percent of the people in debt.

“We need to get the economy back on track, and that means supporting individuals, their families and their businesses,” the UNDP chief said, advocating generosity at the pledge conference.

While the world’s attention is focused on Ukraine and the ripple effects of that war, we must also stand in solidarity with the Afghan people.”.

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