By Robin Gomes
The United Nations and its partners on Tuesday launched a joint appeal of more than $5 billion for two plans for the people of Afghanistan in 2022. With Afghanistan’s basic services collapsing in what is fast becoming the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the UN asked donors to help deliver critical food aid to more than half of the people within the country and another 5.7 million needy people and local communities in five neighbouring countries.
Speaking at the launch of the appeal in Geneva, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said that $4.4 billion were needed for the Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) alone, to directly pay health workers and others, not the de facto authorities.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said another $623 million were needed for the Afghanistan Situation Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRP), to support refugees and host communities in five neighbouring countries.
“Today we are launching an appeal for $4.4 billion for Afghanistan itself for 2022,” Griffiths said. “This,” he added, “is the largest ever appeal for a single country for humanitarian assistance and it is three times the amount actually fundraised in 2021.”
Needs could double
The scale of need is already enormous, both UN officials stressed, adding that if insufficient action is taken now to support the regional response plans, next year the need could surge to $10 billion.
Griffiths said the 11 January appeal was “an absolutely essential stop-gap measure” that they were putting in front of the international community. “Without this being funded,” he urged, “there won’t be a future, we need this to be done, otherwise there will be outflow, there will be suffering.”
Aiding people, not Taliban
However, Griffiths made it clear the funding would not be used to support the Taliban, the country’s de facto authorities. He said it would directly benefit “nurses and health officials in the field” so that these services can continue, not as support for state structures. “Humanitarian agencies inside Afghanistan can only operate,” he said, “if there’s cash in the economy which can be used to pay officials, salaries, costs, fuel and so forth.” “So, liquidity in its first phase is a humanitarian issue, it’s not just a bigger economic issue.”
UN aid agencies describe Afghanistan’s plight as one of the world’s most rapidly growing humanitarian crises. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than half of Afghanistan’s some 40 million population now faces acute hunger, over 9 million people have been displaced, millions of children are out of school and farmers are battling the worst drought in decades.
Griffiths expressed particular concern that 1 million children in Afghanistan are now facing severe acute malnutrition. “A million children at risk of that kind of malnutrition if these things don’t happen,” he said, “is a shocking one.”
As full-blown humanitarian catastrophe looms, the UN emergency relief chief appealed, “My message is urgent: don’t shut the door on the people of Afghanistan.” He said, “Humanitarian partners are on the ground, and they are delivering, despite the challenges”. He urged for help “to scale up and stave off widespread hunger, disease, malnutrition and ultimately death by supporting the humanitarian plans" they have launched.
Looming wider regional crisis
The UNHCR chief Grandi warned of a wider crisis in the region that could spiral out of Afghanistan. He insisted on the need “to stabilize the situation inside Afghanistan”, including that of internally displaced people and refugees beyond its borders.
He said that the $623 million in funding would be utilized for 40 organizations in neighbouring working in protection, health and nutrition, food security, shelter and non-food items, water and sanitation, livelihoods and resilience, education, and logistics and telecoms.
The OCHA noted that since the Taliban takeover last August, women’s and girls’ rights have continued to come under attack and “farmers and herders are struggling amid the worst drought in decades and the economy is in freefall”.
On the issue of protecting fundamental rights, Griffiths underlined the fact that UN humanitarians were continuing to hold “conversations” with Afghanistan’s de facto authorities at a national and sub-national level, on issues such as aid and education access for all.
UN refugee chief Grandi also reiterated that humanitarians on the ground were well aware of the importance of stressing the need to protect the rights of minorities and other vulnerable Afghans. (Source: UN)