GENEVA, 11th January (IPS) – United Nations agencies have called for a record $4.4 billion in aid for Afghanistan to avert a full-blown humanitarian crisis that could lead to starvation, suffering and death and the exodus of large numbers of people from the country .
Martin Griffiths, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told a news conference in Geneva to launch the rescue plan that it was “the largest ever appeal for humanitarian assistance by a single country”.
“Events in Afghanistan over the past year have unfolded at a dizzying pace, with far-reaching consequences for the Afghan people,” Griffith said. The world is bewildered and searching for the right way to respond. At the same time, a full-scale humanitarian disaster looms. “
These humanitarian and refugee response programs are designed to provide critical humanitarian relief to 23 million people in Afghanistan. They will also be provided to 5.7 million displaced Afghans in local communities in five neighbouring countries (Iran, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan).
Donor funding will be required. The Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan has requested $4.4 billion. If funded, this is expected to support aid organisations in increasing the delivery and output of health services, education, conservation services, food and agricultural support, and access to clean water and sanitation.
The Afghan Situation Regional Refugee Response Plan alone requires $623 million for 40 organizations that provide essential services such as protection, health and nutrition, shelter and non-food items, livelihoods and resilience, and logistics and telecommunications.
Griffith described the ongoing humanitarian crisis overwhelming Afghanistan. In 2021, it faces increasing service disruptions and struggles to meet the needs of its population.
Its economy suffered huge losses due to frozen assets in central bank reserves, market volatility, and a sudden halt in international development assistance on which many essential social services depend. Severe climate-induced problems such as harsh winters and one of the worst droughts on record in the country’s history have only exacerbated the poverty of its citizens. 23 million people are at risk of severe hunger.
This also explains those internally displaced Afghans – 700,000. OCHA’s relief assistance program takes these displaced citizens into account.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Philippe Grandi, said the international community must take the necessary steps “to prevent a catastrophe in Afghanistan that would not only exacerbate suffering, but lead to further displacement in the country and the entire region.”
“The key is not to forget that this crisis has a regional dimension,” he said. “Not only the Afghan refugees, but also the people involved in hosting.”
Neighboring countries currently host 5.7 million registered refugees from earlier waves of forced displacement. There are 2.2 million Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan. Despite their inclusive policies in education and healthcare, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these countries’ own needs, creating challenges for these governments to continue their inclusive policies.
UNHCR plans to directly support 40 partner organizations working in the region, providing emergency relief, health and social services, education and protection to refugees and host communities. It is also estimated to work closely to improve the livelihoods and resilience of Afghans, especially those who are more vulnerable to exploitation or abuse when crossing the border.
One of the goals set out at the press conference was to ensure the stability of the country by supporting efforts to rebuild the economic and social fabric.
“The key here is to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan, including the displaced,” Grandi said.
Griffith also said it was crucial to invest in services and structures so that the country finally “allows those who have been displaced to return home safely”.
UN leaders have expressed hope that the relief package will achieve its goals with the funding needed.
“With constant adaptation, constant adjustment, programs can improve, as can service access,” Griffiths said.
The Taliban takeover in August 2021 led to an economic downturn and a freeze in international development aid. It threatens to disrupt services and further undermine the development gains achieved over the past two decades. Education was used as the main example, with concerns about girls being allowed back to school or returning to classes mixed with boys.
There are fears that the Taliban is involved in the rescue plan. However, Griffiths said the Afghan partner, almost all NGOs, would “receive money directly”, including programs that directly pay front-line workers in the health and education sectors.
Grandi said their UN colleagues in the field are in daily talks with the Taliban, who are open to discussing the scope of these plans, saying: “Humanitarian aid … creates space for dialogue.
“That’s the space we need to keep … that can then be developed and made room for stability.”
An open dialogue between the international community and the Taliban is needed to provide immediate relief to Afghanistan and the region, ultimately paving the way for stabilizing the region and reducing its dependence on donors. In this spirit and the apparent urgency to protect the Afghan people, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs are launching their 2022 plans.
Asked at the meeting what would happen if Afghans did not receive the funds they needed, Grandi said that if the country’s humanitarian system collapsed, it could lead to large numbers of people fleeing to neighboring countries and beyond. “We will need the solidarity of these neighbours because they will be the first to be hit.”
Griffith added that in addition to seeing “starvation, suffering, death, despair at the family level…we will deprive the people of Afghanistan of hope that their homes are safe and that they can spend the rest of their lives here.”
© Inter Press Service (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service