We must get life-saving aid to the children of Afghanistan
The international community must make sure that aid can flow back into Afghanistan as the country grapples with the pandemic, conflict and a looming famine, World Vision Australia says.
Ahead of a UN meeting on Afghanistan aid next week, the organisation’s CEO Daniel Wordsworth said the Afghan people needed life-saving aid funding more than ever as the country faces a humanitarian catastrophe.
“We need to be saving lives right now, but our hands are tied,” he said.
“The halting of aid as a result of United Nations Security Council sanctions against the Taliban could become catastrophic for the Afghan people. We urgently need a solution. We must do all we can to ease the suffering of children and their families.”
Daniel said that full and unhindered humanitarian access was crucial to meet the urgent needs of a country ravaged by drought and COVID-19.
“More than 13 million people are gripped by hunger and nearly one in two children under five are facing acute malnutrition this year. This is unacceptable,” he said.
Afghanistan is one of the most aid-dependent countries in the world, with overseas aid comprising almost a quarter of the country’s income in 2019. Its health and education systems are almost entirely dependent on aid and at risk of collapse if it doesn’t resume.
So far, only urgent World Vision operations have restarted after weeks of suspension, with the launch of six mobile health and nutrition clinics on Sunday (September 5) in Herat and Ghor.
Australia has an opportunity to be a leading voice at the international summit convened by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on aid in Afghanistan on Monday, 13 September, Daniel said.
“The Australian Government can use its voice at the conference to help reduce barriers to humanitarian access and ensure a commitment to flexible and sustained funding,” he said.
"World Vision knows that the Government, and the Foreign Minister personally, remain strongly committed to Afghanistan and addressing the humanitarian crisis in the country."
World Vision Australia would also like to see the government boost aid funding by $50 million, but a solution was urgently needed to allow aid to flow and protect the delivery of humanitarian assistance from the potential impact of sanctions.
“We are working with the government to ensure compliance and to enable staff to continue their critical work and we urge them to prioritise the granting of exemptions and permits,” he said.
Daniel was one of the first aid workers on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11 and said that, almost 20 years later, his conviction to help the vulnerable in the country was as strong as ever.
“The situation in Afghanistan is heartbreaking, but our local staff remain committed to their communities and helping the children realise their potential,” he said.
Organisations like World Vision have been major drivers of development in Afghanistan for two decades and remain an important part of its future.
“The international community has made a massive investment in Afghanistan over the past 20 years – and it’s borne fruit. Those gains will be lost if we pull the plug,” he said.
“It’s a complex situation but there is one simple truth – now more than ever, Afghan children and their families need our support. Withholding aid is simply not an option.”
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