Photo credit: Meryl Curtat for Action Against Hunger, Afghanistan
In Afghanistan, the current humanitarian and political crisis is driving food prices beyond the reach of many; one-third of the population already faces critical levels of food insecurity. Action Against Hunger urges the international community to step up and immediately support the humanitarian and development response, to facilitate the safe delivery of humanitarian relief, and to ensure that essential services can be maintained. Afghan civilians need support, without delay, and they must not become the victims of any political agenda.
The Taliban takeover of Kabul on August 15th caused an abrupt halt to most of the international support for humanitarian and development aid in Afghanistan, a country that is highly dependent on foreign assistance. There are concerns about how international sanctions against the Taliban will affect the delivery of lifesaving humanitarian assistance. Supply chains and international banking system have been disrupted, resulting in the suspension of money transfers and severely limited the availability of cash. It remains difficult for international employees to enter the country and for essential supplies to be imported into Afghanistan. It may soon drastically slow down Action Against Hunger’s capacity to provide support to people in need.
“Today, humanitarian needs are growing in Afghanistan, but the delivery of vital assistance to millions of ordinary Afghans has been hampered by political agendas and hesitancy from the international community to coordinate with the new authorities. The victims of these sanctions will be 38 million Afghan civilians, not the Taliban”, said Mike Bonke, Action Against Hunger’s Country Director in Afghanistan. “Chronic malnutrition rates of 30% are considered an emergency, and would typically spark a joint response from the international community. Right now, we see that more than 45% of children are malnourished in Ghor province, where we have been working for years. Funding for the public health system has been suspended, pushing it to the brink of collapse. Support for essential health and nutrition services is fundamental to helping the Afghan people.”
In Helmand province, Action Against Hunger has resumed its work within the therapeutic feeding unit in the Lashkar Gah hospital: in the first 24 hours, ten children were admitted and hospitalized for severe acute malnutrition. “We anticipated the risk of a shortage of key supplies and built up our stocks, particularly of medicines, to allow activities to continue for a few months, but they will run out at one point.”, said Mike.
Almost half of the 38 million population in Afghanistan – including nearly 10 million children – require urgent humanitarian assistance. Before the current crisis, 3.1 million children across Afghanistan were suffering from malnutrition, a life-threatening condition that is preventable and treatable. Limited employment opportunities and increasing food prices mean that millions of Afghan families do not know when and where their next meal will come from.
Humanitarian assistance is vital, and it cannot be delivered without a safe environment for aid workers and organizations to operate without fear of international sanctions. Therefore, UN Security Council must grant an exemption for activities that exclusively serve humanitarian purposes, including the delivery of medical assistance. The international community must not abandon the Afghan people. We urge world leaders to send a clear message – along with lifesaving aid – to show that the lives of the women, men, and children of Afghanistan matter.