The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan Toby Lanzer said “if we do not engage more on short-term emergency requirements,” those achieved development gains and “the possibilities that peace could actually be explored within Afghanistan” might be lost.
Speaking to the press at the UN Headquarters, in New York on Friday, Lanzer highlighted major achievements in the country, including economic progress for the third year in a row as well as upcoming parliamentary elections in October and presidential elections in April next year.
However, he also noted the killing of 13 journalists on the job this year – the highest number in the world – and the 23 aid workers who lost their lives, the 37 who were badly injured and 74 abducted.
“Afghanistan is undergoing a terrible drought, the worst in many, many years and now over 5.5 million people are in need of emergency relief,” said Lanzer, noting that in the past few weeks alone, more than a quarter million people have been fleeing their homes, “looking for any way to get by.”
“Winter is on its way, and in Afghanistan, winter bites hard,” he added.
Of particular concern is the serious shortfall in funds for relief work, said Lanzer, urging the international donor community for immediate resources.
“I am here to ring alarm bells because if we do not engage more on the short-term emergency relief requirements, the development gains that we have achieved over the past years … could be lost,” he warned.
Earlier this month, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowock, and Filippo Grandi, the High Commissioner for Refugees, visited the country and called for an urgent increase as well as sustained support for the humanitarian response.
Lanzer said: “There has been an evolution in the views of the opposition on allowing girls to access education and we can say with some confidence today that there are about eight million children across Afghanistan, girls and boys, who are in school.”
He also stated that Afghans desperately want peace and that there is a need for a solution in this respect.
“There is a hunger for peace, there is a hunger for security. People are yearning for things to stabilize and as I mentioned earlier, I do think that amongst political elite, there is a sense and I hope I am right. There is a sense, this has go on for long enough. We need to find a solution,” he said.
On the topic of poppy production, Lanzer said: “We need to look at not only the supply side of this equation, but also the demand side.”
He said “that is a very important issue for those who live in countries of Western Europe, of North America. I think the heroin epidemic that people have spoken about across parts of the North America, is certainly worth reflecting on. And looking how that could be tackled here, not only looking at the supply side on the ground in Afghanistan.”
On Saturday, The United States Agency for international Development (USAID) said in a statement it had contributed approximately $44 million to the UN World Food Program (WFP) to support the provision of critical food assistance to drought affected Afghans.
USAID is the largest donor to the WFP in Afghanistan and has contributed $68.8 million to WFP to support emergency food operations since the start of the 2018 fiscal year.
WFP meanwhile is increasing its response interventions, initially reaching 441,000 people in the five worst-affected provinces, to no supporting 1.4 million people in 20 provinces.
300,000 Afghans Displaced Due To Insecurity And Drought
According to the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, 300,000 Afghans have been displaced this year in the country due to drought and insecurity.
Almost 80,000 of the internally displaced persons are living in Kabul, said Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi, the Minister of Refugees and Repatriation on September Friday.
Balkhi said drought has displaced residents in 20 provinces and that “we have 52 camps for displaced families in different parts of Kabul. Nearly 10,000 displaced families are living in these camps. The total number of the displaced persons in Kabul is between 70,000 to 80,000.”
However, a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 253,600 people are currently displaced from drought affected areas across the Western Region.
The report says that 2.2 million people have been affected by drought in Afghanistan.
The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) report says that recently 120,000 people have been displaced only in Badghis province due to drought.
Among displaced families in the provinces of the Western Region, the situation is even more dire with 82 percent of the families having a poor food consumption score and 72 per cent having had to resort to negative coping mechanisms like reducing food intake or the number of meals, according to the Drought Impact and Needs Assessment (DINA) conducted by OCHA, UNDP and partners.