UN High Commissioner for Refugees appeals for global engagement to address Afghanistan’s needs

KABUL, Afghanistan – Declaring that the world must deliver sustained support to the people of Afghanistan, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, appealed for robust assistance to address the country’s humanitarian needs and those of Afghan refugees abroad.

“As much as the world is rightfully preoccupied with the war in Ukraine, Afghanistan is experiencing a very grave crisis,” Grandi said at the end of a four-day visit to the country.

“We speak with people who do not know what they will eat for their next meal; women heads of households afraid for the health and well-being of their children; mothers and fathers desperate to provide for their families. The needs here are enormous,” Grandi declared after a visit that included the opening of a UNHCR-built health centre in Kandahar and to a girls school which UNHCR constructed in Jalalabad.

Grandi arrived in Afghanistan on Monday and met with the interim Afghan government as well as UN and NGO workers who continue to provide vital assistance throughout the country. During his meetings, Grandi said UNHCR’s commitment to stay and deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan is unwavering.

So far in 2022, the UN Refugee Agency’s assistance and relief programmes have helped more than 500,000 Afghans, including more than 130,000 people who received relief items or direct financial assistance to survive the winter and more than 370,000 people who benefited from health centres, schools, water systems and other infrastructure that UNHCR has built in areas prioritised for the return of refugees and IDPs.

“Some 3.4 million people are internally displaced due to conflict, the healthcare system is experiencing severe shortages amid the COVID crisis and a measles outbreak, key workers in vital services like schools and hospitals are without salaries, while the liquidity crisis, rising global food and energy costs are having a devastating effect,” Grandi declared. “Overall, 24 million people throughout Afghanistan require humanitarian support this year and we appeal to donors to fund a large humanitarian effort which I have seen is delivering critical results.”

The UN Refugee Agency has been in Afghanistan for four decades providing emergency assistance and support to displaced and returning Afghans. UNHCR is currently engaged via 55 area-based programmes that assist reintegration and build community resilience and stability under its Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees, which focuses support on more than 11,000 villages in Afghanistan and also in refugee hosting areas in neighbouring countries.

“Protecting the rights and well-being of Afghans requires long-term political and economic stability,” Grandi said. “The international community must remain engaged in Afghanistan. Yet humanitarian approaches alone will not suffice. Revitalizing Afghanistan’s banking system and economy and resuming development projects can help lay the foundations upon which displaced Afghans, as well as refugees, can consider voluntary return when conditions permit.”

“This also,” he said, “requires the de facto authorities to build trust with those who have been displaced. In my meetings with them, I have conveyed that the best way to do that is to ensure that all Afghans, including minorities, men, women, girls and boys, can exercise their rights and have access to work and  services on an equal basis.”

Grandi said he welcomed what he heard from authorities in this regard — not only in Kabul, but also in Kandahar and Jalalabad, with all officials recognizing the importance of service provision to all Afghans. He also conveyed to all interlocutors that now the proof of these good intentions lay in concrete decisions and actions, starting with the re-opening of schools for both girls and boys.

Agencies working in Afghanistan urgently require $4.44 billion under the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) to meet the critical needs of 22 million Afghans and stave off hunger, disease, malnutrition, death, and displacement. Additionally, under the UN’s Transitional Engagement Framework (TEF), agencies require a further $3.6 billion to sustain essential social programmes to help the country’s 38 million residents.

UNHCR needs $340.3 million for Afghanistan this year to support its response to displaced people and other vulnerable Afghans. The agency’s work in Afghanistan is currently only 28 per cent funded, with $97 million received to date.

The consequences of late or inadequate funding for these appeals will be very real, Grandi declared.

“The TEF and the HRP, alongside the $623 million Refugee Response Plan (RRP) to support almost 6 million Afghan refugees and others residing in neighbouring countries, together underpin a cross-border vision that ultimately seeks to improve the overall humanitarian situation of Afghans, and advance their protection, including for solutions,” Grandi said.

“The needs are indeed great,” said Grandi, “but so too are the opportunities – as I saw at the girls’ school in Jalalabad. It is now up to the international community to step up and help the resilient people of Afghanistan so they can make the most of their potential.”

“Without support to the UN and partners’ work, however, the hardship I witnessed this week in Jalalabad, Kandahar and Kabul will mount.”

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