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Humanitarian catastrophe looming for Afghans

19 January 20220 comments

A massive relief effort has been launched to support millions of Afghans suffering the effects of a fresh humanitarian crisis.

International aid agencies and the United Nations have revealed the details of a new response plan that aims to deliver vital humanitarian relief to 22 million people in Afghanistan and support 5.7 million displaced Afghans and local communities in five neighbouring countries.

The plan comes amid fears that the collapse of the Afghan economy since the Taliban took power last August will result in wide-spread hunger, disease, malnutrition and death.

The unprecedented humanitarian relief effort will need more than US$5 billion in international funding over the next year.

A UNHCR briefing document says people in Afghanistan face one of the world’s most rapidly growing humanitarian crises.

It says half of the population face acute hunger, over nine million people are displaced and millions of children are out of school.

The document says fundamental rights of women and girls are under attack, farmers and herders are struggling amidst the worst drought in decades, and the national economy is in free fall.

“Without support, tens of thousands of children are at risk of dying from malnutrition as basic health services have collapsed,” the document says.

“Conflict has subsided, but violence, fear, and deprivation continue to drive Afghans to seek safety and asylum across borders, particularly in Iran and Pakistan.

“More than 2.2 million registered refugees and a further four million Afghans with different statuses are hosted in the neighbouring countries,” it says.

The report says the dire situation has stretched the capacity of the neighbouring countries hosting them.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan had developed faster than expected.

“Events in Afghanistan over the past year have unfolded with dizzying speed and with profound consequences for the Afghan people,” he said.

“The world is perplexed and looking for the right way to react. Meanwhile, a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe looms.

“My message is urgent: don’t shut the door on the people of Afghanistan. Humanitarian partners are on the ground, and they are delivering, despite the challenges.

“Help us scale up to stave off wide-spread hunger, disease, malnutrition and ultimately death by supporting the humanitarian plan we are launching today.”

UN High Commission for Refugees Filippo Grandi urged the international community to help prevent a catastrophe in Afghanistan.

He said a failure to do so would compound suffering and would drive further displacement both within the country and throughout the region

“At the same time we must also urgently scale up the response in support of refugees and the communities that have hosted them for generations,” Mr Grandi said.

“The needs of refugees cannot be dismissed nor can the generosity of host countries be taken for granted. They need support and they need it today,” he said.

The plan for responding inside Afghanistan requires $4.44 billion, the largest humanitarian appeal ever launched for a country.

It is aimed at ramping up delivery of live-saving food and agriculture support, health services, nutrition, emergency shelter, water and sanitation, protection, and emergency education.

The regional refugee response plan requires $623 million in funding for 40 organisations working in protection, health and nutrition, food security, shelter and non-food items, water and sanitation, livelihoods and resilience, education and logistics.