Afghanistan and Pakistan: Humanitarian needs must not be neglected, says OCHA’s John Ging

6 June, 2013
 5 June 2013, New York: OCHA's John Ging (right) speaks at a UN press briefing following his visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Credit: OCHA/Paolo Palmero
5 June 2013, New York: OCHA's John Ging (right) speaks at a UN press briefing following his visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Credit: OCHA/Paolo Palmero

OCHA Operations Director John Ging has warned that a drop in humanitarian funding for Afghanistan and Pakistan could undermine efforts to bring meaningful development to vulnerable communities in those countries.

“We are very concerned that donor funding for humanitarian operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan is falling short at a critical moment of positive transition in the region,” he said at a press briefing on Wednesday in New York.

“There won’t be the potential that development money would unlock if you don’t deal with the very basic humanitarian needs of the population.”

Mr Ging was speaking following his recent mission to the two countries, where he travelled with the emergency directors of six major humanitarian and development organizations.

Afghanistan: Lack of funding, limited security

A lack of funding, combined with ongoing security concerns, continued to complicate humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, Mr Ging said.

“Our humanitarian appeal for US$471 million is only 38 per cent funded,” he explained. “Again we have to emphasize that this is about laying a platform for all of the other elements of the transition (towards security and development). If you don’t get the humanitarian right, then you have nothing to build upon.”

Fifty-nine per cent of Afghans are malnourished – well above the emergency threshold of 40 per cent. An estimated 9 million people – more than a quarter of the population – are food insecure, with 2.1 million of them believed to be suffering from severe food insecurity. More than half a million people are internally displaced, and each year 250,000 Afghans are affected by natural disasters such as floods or droughts.

Mr Ging and the emergency directors arrived in Afghanistan on the same day that the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) office in the capital Kabul was attacked.

“Our operations continue to be very challenging, in fact, very dangerous,” he said. “This (attack) certainly set the scene for us in terms of the dangerous environment in which humanitarians are and continue to work in Afghanistan.”

Pakistan: “We may be called upon in a couple of weeks”

In Pakistan, Mr Ging highlighted that the positive momentum generated by recent elections – the country’s first civilian transfer of power – could be undermined by lack of international support for humanitarian programmes.

Mr Ging shared his concerns about the impact that low funding was having on humanitarian efforts to prepare for the imminent flood season. The slow response of donors meant that agencies had been unable to pre-position emergency supplies in flood prone areas, he said, noting that this failure could hinder any emergency response.

“We may be called upon in a couple of weeks to support the Pakistani authorities in responding to flooding,” he said. “That has been the pattern over the last number of years so we need to be prepared. And yet, the emergency stocks are not there.”

Since 2010, when nearly the entire country was affected by massive flooding, funding for humanitarian activities in Pakistan has declined. In 2010, donors provided 70 per cent of the funding that was needed. In 2011 this figure dropped to 44 per cent. In 2012, funding fell further to 29 per cent. During this period, an estimated 30 million people have been affected by flooding.

“This is again evidence of a falling-off of international commitment to do what we are there to do,” said Mr Ging. “And as humanitarian organizations, it is very frustrating to be on the ground, to be working in partnership with the Pakistan Government, and not being able to deliver.”

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