A senior United Nations official today called on the international community to step up its humanitarian support for Afghanistan to sustain the progress made so far in the country where thousands have suffered through 34 years of conflict and poverty.
“It is clear that the Government is making progress; the candid and professional approach being taken is certainly impressive, but given the scale of the challenge, international funding support will also be key to success,” said the Director of Operations of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging, following a three-day visit to Afghanistan.
“The figures speak for themselves,” Mr. Ging added. “More than nine million people in Afghanistan – one third of the population – are food insecure; an average of 165 children under the age of five die every day; and an Afghan woman dies every two hours due to pregnancy-related causes.”
In addition, some 450,000 people have been displaced by conflict and natural disasters, and more than 75 per cent of Afghans have been forced from their homes by conflict at least once in their lives, the humanitarian official noted.
According to OCHA, the 2012 consolidated humanitarian appeal for Afghanistan remains less than 50 per cent funded, with a shortfall of $234 million at the end of November – making it one of the worst funded appeals in the world.
“This shortfall translates into the unnecessary loss of so many innocent lives as a result of preventable disease and hunger in the midst of such a large and expensive international military presence,” said Mr. Ging. “I sincerely hope that the military transition underway will free up desperately needed funding for humanitarian and development programmes.”
During his visit, Mr. Ging met with senior Government officials in Kabul, the capital, where he was briefed on reforms and new programmes underway, such as a Government-led winterization effort targeting 240,000 people with health, food, shelter and household items including fuel.
Mr. Ging also visited a regional hospital in the province of Kandahar, where he spoke to mothers of severely malnourished children receiving therapeutic feeding through the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO), as well as women activists.
“Once again, reality confounds perception in this country,” Mr. Ging said. “So many brave Afghans are fighting for human rights and women’s rights; all they need is modest support from the international community.”