UN launches $604 million appeal to aid Afghans in need

3 February 2009
John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

The United Nations and its partners today appealed for $604 million to help meet the needs of Afghans made vulnerable by natural disasters, lack of access to basic social services, increasing food insecurity and the worsening security situation.

Some $354 million of the appeal will go towards food aid, while almost $100 million will be used to rid the strife-torn nation of landmines, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told reporters in Geneva, as he launched the Humanitarian Action Plan for Afghanistan for 2009.

The Plan, with a set of 112 projects from 39 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and eight UN agencies, also focuses on the delivery of education, water and sanitation, as well as on protection concerns amid growing insecurity in a country, where 42 per cent of the population lives on less than $1 per day.

“Coming on top of chronic vulnerability and widespread poverty, insecurity has contributed to the increase in acute humanitarian needs. The lack of security in some areas also prevents humanitarian aid workers from carrying out their life-saving work,” said Mr. Holmes, who is also UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Staff of UN aid agencies and NGOs have come under increasing attack in Afghanistan in recent years. By the end of October 2008, 36 aid workers had been killed and a further 92 abducted, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The UN recorded over 120 direct attacks between January and August 2008.

Despite the insecurity, aid operations within the country continued in an effort to address the worsening humanitarian situation. The most pressing problems are severe food insecurity and the impact of the armed conflict on civilians.

Persistently high food prices, combined with recurrent drought, have compounded the humanitarian needs of a large part of the population. As a consequence of drought, an estimated 1.2 million children under five and 550,000 pregnant and lactating women in 22 provinces are at high risk of malnutrition.

The appeal is the first such coordinated plan for some years for Afghanistan, and is an essential step to improving the response between NGOs and UN agencies on the ground, noted Mr. Holmes, who was joined at the launch by Bo Asplund, Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, and Nesar Popal, Advisor to the Presidency of Afghanistan.

He also stressed that the UN will try to ensure that the distinction between civilian and military actors is maintained, and to help forces opposed to the Government to be aware that humanitarian actors had no agenda other than helping people in need.

This will require a lot of effort in terms of information and advocacy, he added, and the new OCHA office in Afghanistan could help by taking forward the dialogue with non-State actors, ensuring that they leave the humanitarian workers alone to do their work.


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