30 August 2012 – Humanitarian organizations in Afghanistan expressed grave concern today over how little attention is being paid to address the ever growing humanitarian needs of the country, where many groups including the United Nations have their biggest humanitarian operations.
Speaking at a roundtable organized in the capital, Kabul, to mark World Humanitarian Day, aid agencies warned that with increasing incidents of disaster – coupled with the insecurity in the country and the large number of Afghans living in chronic poverty – would have political and security consequences.
“Not paying sufficient attention to the humanitarian situation, in my view, is a problem. If there is a linkage between that and availability of resources, it is something we need to do something about,” said Michael Keating, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan ranks in the bottom 10 per cent of the Human Development Index. More than one-third of the population lives below the poverty line. One in every two children under five is chronically malnourished. To add to that, so far in 2012, about 300 natural disasters have struck the country affecting more than 200,000 people. Up to 600,000 people are internally displaced and 5.7 million Afghan refugees have returned home since 2002.
Mr. Keating expressed his disappointment over the poor response to a UN appeal earlier this year for US$ 437 million for humanitarian preparedness and response in Afghanistan for 2012. Only 33 per cent, or about US$ 150 million, of the requested amount has been received in eight months. In addition, the Emergency Response Fund only received its first funds in early August.
World Humanitarian Day is celebrated on 19 August, to honour the 22 people killed in an attack on a UN building in Baghdad on that day in 2003. The humanitarian community in Afghanistan marked the day today because the actual day coincided with the first day of Eid-ul-Fitr, a Muslim holiday.
Representatives of about a dozen humanitarian organizations active in Afghanistan marked the day with a call to recognize the dire humanitarian situation of the country and to act to address this. They also called for more media attention to the situation that would help raise the issue globally.
“We (the humanitarian community) need to address this and we simply are not in a position to address them as fully as we would like to,” Mr. Keating told the gathering, adding that, although local people and communities are the “biggest humanitarian actors” in this country, their ability to cope with growing humanitarian needs is also decreasing.
He said the humanitarian community was also concerned that economic activities and jobs would decrease in line with the transition towards 2014. “There are all sorts of business opportunities associated with their (international military’s) presence that will decline. When people have less income, they become more vulnerable.”
1. INTERVIEW: Michael Keating, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan - “International support in security sector should be matched by their aid in economic and development fields”
2. The humanitarian community launches its 2012 appeal for Afghanistan for US$437 million