Afghanistan facing 'humanitarian catastrophe', UN warns


UN Secretary general António Guterres warned of a looming humanitarian catastrophe following the withdrawal of western forces.

He expressed grave concern for "the deepening humanitarian and economic crisis in the country and the threat of basic services collapsing completely."

Guterres' statement also highlighted the magnitude of the crisis, giving a bleak picture of current events and stating that almost 18 million people require humanitarian aid to survive.

He added, “One in three Afghans do not know where their next meal will come from. More than half of all children under-five are expected to become acutely malnourished in the next year. People are losing access to basic goods and services every day.” 

“We must not turn away. A far greater humanitarian crisis is just beginning.”

Guterres’ warning on heightened food insecurity, worries over accelerated covid outbreaks, forced displacement and threats to the rights and safety of women has sparked urgent calls for greater humanitarian assistance to those on the ground - as UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a recent statement, these threats “will still be a daily reality for millions of Afghans.” 

We must meet the critical humanitarian needs in Afghanistan and in countries around the region, and our response must be robust and urgent.  Standing by the people of Afghanistan means standing by all of them, whether they have sought safety abroad or are picking up the pieces of their lives at home.

As others have also moved to highlight, events of the last month have only served to aggravate an already precarious domestic situation. ReliefWeb's look at the current need for assistance notes that Afghanistan already had 2.9 million internally displaced people (IDPs) prior to 2021. They add that the pace of families fleeing their homes had intensified due to conflict and drought, a pattern which has caused many to highlight the role of British and American interference.  

Some commentators have noted that the impact of the Taliban appears to have complicated matters. Still yet to form a government and with an alarming international reputation, many states have been wary as to how to navigate future dealings following their seizure of Kabul. 

The UK government doubled its official development assistance (ODA) to Afghanistan to £286 million in response to public pressure and pleas to face the "moral obligation" head on but were quick to stress that none of the money would go to the Taliban. Instead, the funds would be distributed in collaboration with the United Nations and other non-governmental organisations.

Despite Guterres’ urging UN Member States to “dig deep” and provide “timely, flexible and comprehensive funding” to support humanitarian workers, international response to supporting those on the ground remains in flux. Presently, the UN's $1.3 billion humanitarian appeal for the country is only 39 percent funded. 

Mayowa Ayodele