Urgent action needed to help Afghanistan

Forty-one international donors have pledged a total of 2.44 billion USD in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, following United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call on the world to act urgently to help the South Asian nation. The amount raised has not reached the set target of 4.4 billion USD in 2022 and is only ‘a drop in the bucket’ as the country is deeply immersed in a humanitarian crisis. However, it is also important and necessary finance that could save millions of people from the brink of starvation.

The people of Afghanistan are facing a severe food shortage. (Photo: Reuters)
The people of Afghanistan are facing a severe food shortage. (Photo: Reuters)

International commitments to aid Afghanistan were made at an online conference jointly organised by the UK, Germany, and Qatar.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged rich countries not to ignore the consequences of their own decisions, especially for vulnerable people in Afghanistan.

The call by the head of the world’s largest multilateral organisation implies the withdrawal of Western countries from Afghanistan in 2021. After years of conflict, the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has worsened since the Taliban came to power. Following the Taliban taking control, the international community has frozen nearly 9 billion USD in Afghan assets in overseas banks.

In recent months, nearly 95% of the people in the South Asian country do not have enough food while 9 million people are at risk of starvation. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimates that about 1 million Afghan children are severely malnourished and could die without prompt support.

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has worsened as global food prices have skyrocketed, making people struggling to survive, and aid activities have also faced financial constraints.

Afghanistan's economy has almost collapsed, with more than 80% of the population in debt. Civil servants who work at essential institutions such as schools and hospitals have not been paid for months, while businesses have been paralysed, and international aid organisations with offices in Afghanistan have also stopped operating.

Facing this tragedy, the United Nations Secretary-General said that Afghanistan's economy is at risk of falling into a “death spiral” without urgent aid. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) warns that if the international community does not act now to support Afghanistan, about 97% of the people in the South Asian country will have to live below the poverty line by mid-2022.

In order to obtain the financial resources to help the people of Afghanistan, the United Nations is trying to seek 4.4 billion USD in aid for Afghanistan, which is the largest humanitarian aid ever called for by a global multilateral organisation in support of a country.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Afghanistan needs aid to boost its economy and maintain agricultural production as well as basic social services. The international aid will go directly to relief agencies and not through the channels of the Taliban government.

Since the Taliban returned to power in August 2021, Afghanistan has been plunged into a terrible humanitarian and economic crisis, affecting the lives of 38 million people. About 23 million people are now facing severe food insecurity, as the country recently experienced its worst drought in 30 years. 60% of Afghanistan’s population is in need of aid, mainly food.

Faced with the threat of “tragedies” in Afghanistan, the United Nations and the international community have always called for efforts to ensure the social progress, democracy and human rights achieved in Afghanistan over the past 20 years, especially in the protection of women’s rights. Therefore, increasing humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan in this difficult time is urgently needed to prevent the risk of another terrible humanitarian disaster.