UN humanitarian chief in Afghanistan calls for $ 850 million Thursday to help war-torn country withstand Taliban offensive impact, prolonged malnutrition for one-third of country, severe drought, and return of 627,000 Afghans this year, most of them were expelled from neighboring Iran.
Ramiz Alakbarov told reporters at UN headquarters after a virtual conference from the Kabul capital that at least 18 million Afghans need help and the UN plan is to provide assistance to at least 15.7 million of them.
But he said the $ 1.3 billion UN call was funded by only 37 percent – $ 450 million with the United States as the largest donor. He said the remaining $ 850 million required is much needed.
As US and NATO troops complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years, the Taliban in recent weeks have gained control of many districts and key border crossings with neighbors Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. In many cases, Afghan security forces and the military have offered little or no resistance as they have often been left without supplies or reinforcements.
Alakbarov said the second drought in three years and the Taliban offensive have forced 270,000 people to flee their homes in rural areas to urban areas and regional centers, where they need food, water, shelter and sanitation.
The UN is also seeing very intense population movements in areas where the Iranian and Pakistani borders are now largely closed, with Afghans trying to use trails away from official crossings to try to leave the country, he said.
Alakbarov expressed hope that Afghanistan’s neighbors would look at the situation in terms of human rights and their responsibility to protect people from suffering and to allow Afghan refugees into their countries.
The United Nations has registered 627,000 Afghans who have returned from neighboring countries so far this year, he said, and most of them are from Iran.
Alakbarov reported a significant increase in attacks on humanitarian workers this year. He said 35 humanitarian workers were killed and 63 were injured, which represents a 30 per cent increase compared to last year.
He also reported threats and intrusions involving aid personnel, citing 1,095 incidents in the first six months of 2021, compared to 1,100 across 2020.
He said the biggest hardships faced by aid workers come from military activity, including the need to deal with road mining, being caught in the fire and being attacked by groups targeting female health workers, women that make vaccines and mine clearance teams.
Alakbarov said that in the current situation, everything is a challenge “and Covid-19 has not made it easier, with deaths from coronavirus doubling in the last 2 months.
While the UN has humanitarian supplies in Afghanistan for needs until August, he said, closing border crossings could pose problems in the future. He added that securing security at Kabul airport is absolutely essential.
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