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A Humanitarian Health Organisation’s Perspective.
Afghanistan has been affected by conflict for over 40 years. Since 2009, UNAMA has counted 116,076 civilian war victims; many were killed or injured by explosive devices, the devastating presence or remnants of which continue to endanger the life of civilians long after the end of fighting.
Following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul on 15th August 2021, Afghanistan’s international assets have been frozen, the Taliban banned from international institutions, and diplomatic delegations evacuated. For a country that largely depended on international aid, the impact on civilians, that bear the brunt of increased poverty and lack of essential services, is severe.
The heritage of a long war, the economic crisis and the collapse of the banking system, along with the worst drought in 30 years and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, created unprecedented levels of need. 23 million Afghans face acute food insecurity. Despite this, on 31st March 2022, the UN appeal of $4.4bn to help Afghanistan fell massively short and raised $2.4bn.
Afghanistan is now out of the spotlight and risks becoming a neglected crisis. It is urgent to keep Afghanistan on the international agenda to contain the consequences that Western political stances vis-à-vis the Taliban have on civilians, and push for pragmatic solutions and lay the foundations for a healthier social fabric. In fact, according to UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, “it is unacceptable and unconscionable that the people of Afghanistan have had to live with the prospects of either bombing or starvation, or both.”
This briefing paper briefly discusses the operational constraints that are affecting the work of humanitarian actors in the field and proposes a set of recommendations to guarantee adequate and effective humanitarian aid to Afghan communities with a sustainable approach.
The international community deserted Afghanistan, leaving the country in chaos. We have a moral duty to give the Afghan people back what is theirs. People’s rights and dignity should always be the common goal of our interventions.
Rossella Miccio, president of EMERGENCY
Key recommendations are as follows:
- It is essential to support the UN Secretary General’s appeal for a creative, flexible and constructive engagement with the de facto authorities, placing the needs of the Afghan people first.
- The international community should fill the $2bn funding gap left after the recent UN appeal for Afghanistan. Funds should be integrated, multi-annual, fast and flexible.
- Afghan reserve funds should be unfrozen. Technical assistance to restore the role of the Afghanistan Central Bank as an independent institution and financial regulator should be guaranteed.
- It is urgent to reactivate Kabul International Airport to ensure the prompt delivery of humanitarian aid.
- Investing in health must be a priority in order to give the Afghan population a future, rebuilding essential services and offering jobs, including to women.
- To make the healthcare system more resilient it is vital to invest in health infrastructure and to make education at all levels accessible for all, including women and girls. Investments in higher education and capacity building programmes should be strengthened in terms of quality and quantity.