UN Humanitarian Coordinator reaffirms commitment to supporting vulnerable communities across Afghanistan
KABUL - The Afghan people continue to stand in dire need of international assistance despite an ongoing humanitarian response of unprecedented scale and nature. Over the past year, UN agencies and NGO partners have mounted a massive humanitarian response, staying and delivering to almost 23 million people in need as of end-June, and expanding their operations to reach affected communities across all 401 districts of the country’s 34 provinces.
With the generous support of donors, humanitarian actors have saved countless lives and improved the prospects of millions more, successfully averting a famine last winter, and further ramping up the provision of life-saving and life-sustaining food and agricultural assistance in 2022. “Today, the tragic reality is that the scale of needs in Afghanistan far outstrips the response capacity of humanitarian actors to meet them, and it will simply not be possible to move the population from a mode of surviving to thriving unless a functioning economy and banking system is restored; longer-term, more sustainable interventions are resumed; line ministries are technically capacitated; girls are officially able to return to school; and women and girls can participate meaningfully and safely in all aspects of social, political and economic life, including humanitarian work,” the Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov said.
At the same time, humanitarian action has been absolutely essential in keeping the Afghan people alive, maintaining basic services, and shoring up the economy at a time when no alternatives have been available.
Funding from the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund and Central Emergency Reserve Fund has been pivotal in preventing a collapse of the health and education sectors by ensuring essential workers could continue to be paid. Already this year, some 7.7 million people have benefited from sustained health services, including 3 million women and girls who have received primary, reproductive and maternal health support, contributing to reduced excess maternal, neonatal and child deaths.
Additional humanitarian assistance has been provided in the form of emergency cash which meets a range of needs – from food to shelter, water and sanitation, protection, and health – to cash for work and livelihoods support, thereby injecting much-needed liquidity into the economy. This effort has been bolstered by the United Nations cash shipment scheme which has overseen the transportation of some US $1 billion in cash to help meet partners’ humanitarian fund transfer needs amid ongoing challenges with the formal banking and financial sectors. This scheme has proven an invaluable lifeline for humanitarian actors, ensuring that time-critical programmes can continue uninterrupted, while also yielding some positive macro-economic effects such as stabilization of the currency.
And, yet, the future looks increasingly bleak in the absence of concerted efforts to address structural drivers of need and vulnerability that help lay the groundwork for community-led, bottom up economic recovery.
Around 25 million people are now living in poverty, and as many as 900,000 jobs may be lost from the labour market this year as businesses struggle to stay afloat, and women and girls remain locked out of secondary school and the formal economy. “History has shown us time and time again, that we ignore the red flags of today at tomorrow’s peril,” Dr. Alakbarov said. “And in Afghanistan today, the red flags are both multiple and diverse – from devastating climate projections, to an economy which hangs in the balance, and growing restrictions on women and girls which exclude them from society. “People in Afghanistan have long experienced financial poverty, but are now increasingly condemned to a life filled with poverty of hope and aspiration. We cannot let this happen,” he urged.
Next week, on 19 August, we will commemorate World Humanitarian Day, a day in which we reflect upon the dedication and service – often life-long – of humanitarian personnel in meeting the needs of vulnerable populations across the globe. This past year, it has been both humbling and heartening to bear witness to the commitment demonstrated by our national colleagues, who have not only stayed and delivered at a time of significant upheaval, but done so with the utmost passion, integrity and kindness, often at great personal risk to their own safety, security and well-being, and far away from family and loved ones.
In particular, we pay tribute to the thousands of female national humanitarian workers who have been the backbone of the humanitarian response, and whom neither the population in Afghanistan nor the humanitarian community could do without. We thank you.