UN Humanitarian Conference raises funding for responding to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan
Today, on 13 September 2021, the United Nations is organising a High-level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan. The UN estimates that approximately half of the population of the country need humanitarian assistance. Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari will represent Finland at the meeting.
Afghanistan suffered from a humanitarian crisis even before the Taliban’s takeover. Factors behind the emergency include a prolonged conflict, such effects of climate change as the drought that destroyed crop yields, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The fighting in recent months and the Taliban’s takeover have further heightened the need for humanitarian assistance. The UN estimates that about half of the Afghan population would currently require humanitarian assistance, and 14 million people are suffering from acute food shortages.
A large number of Afghans have left their home region because of the crisis. This year, more than half a million people have been internally displaced. Of the 2.6 million Afghan refugees registered outside the country, 85 per cent are staying in Iran and Pakistan. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the number of Afghans who need humanitarian support has grown by at least two million from the conflict’s previous stage. Disabled women and children are particularly vulnerable.
Urgent need for additional assistance
The Afghanistan Flash Appeal by OCHA, which was launched early this year amounted to USD 413 million. So far, only 39 per cent of this humanitarian response plan has been funded.
Now that the situation has worsened, OCHA has launched an updated flash appeal, requiring USD 193 million more funding than before. There is a critical shortage of food and medical supplies, among other things, and access to health services is restricted. It is assumed that the needs will increase further in the coming months, for example due to the country’s extremely weak economic situation.
Finland promises additional support through the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR
The aim of the UN High-level Ministerial Meeting, held virtually on 13 September, is to raise awareness of the crisis in Afghanistan, to appeal to various actors to ensure that emergency relief reaches those who need it, and to collect new pledges. Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade Ville Skinnari will represent Finland at the meeting.
“The Ministry for Foreign Affairs reacted very quickly and made a decision on a new allocation of EUR 3 million for Afghan refugees through UNHCR. The efforts to help those in distress will not end here. Finland is among those at the forefront in seeking solutions to alleviate the difficult situation in Afghanistan,” Minister Skinnari says.
The High-level Meeting will focus on examining ways to make sure that the assistance reaches those in need and to safeguard distribution of deliveries. Until now, such UN agencies providing humanitarian assistance as UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP) as well as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement have been able to continue their work in the country. The WFP has succeeded in opening an air bridge from Islamabad to Kabul, through which food deliveries, for example, have reached the country.
“The Taliban must respect the principles of international humanitarian law and humanitarian assistance. Otherwise, assistance cannot be delivered. It is also important that there are women workers among donors in the field, not only to see that they can participate but also because women and children find it easier to seek help when they are present,” minister Skinnari says.
Humanitarian principles include humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence.
Finland and many other countries have frozen their long-term development cooperation disbursements to Afghanistan, but humanitarian assistance will continue to the extent possible. So far, like Finland, the European Union, among others, has decided to increase its humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan.
The author is a Communications Officer at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland.