Afghanistan: Humanitarian chief calls for continued investment to save lives

11 May, 2012
10 May 2012, Northern Afghanistan: ERC Valerie Amos meets the women of Buzareg village. Credit: UNAMA
10 May 2012, Northern Afghanistan: ERC Valerie Amos meets the women of Buzareg village. Credit: UNAMA

The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, ended her visit to Afghanistan with a call for continued investment in human development and livelihoods.

Speaking today at a news conference in Kabul, Ms. Amos said investment in human development and prevention measures was needed to reduce vulnerability to the impact of conflict and natural disasters. 

“During my time here, much has been said about the transition and the departure of ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] forces. The needs of the people in Afghanistan remain vast,” said Ms. Amos. 
 
“Security is indeed a priority. But for the Afghans I met, security is not just about physical security. It is also about the importance of investment in the human development and the delivery of critical functions such as livelihoods, primary education, health care and the functioning rule of law.”
 
“We … will continue to deliver humanitarian assistance where it is needed, but clearly this alone is not enough,” Ms. Amos said. “In parallel to our humanitarian efforts, longer-term investment in human development and prevention measures is urgently needed to reduce vulnerability in the face of recurrent challenges. We must also invest in efforts to strengthen the resiliency of communities themselves and the capacity of service-delivery institutions.”
 
Ms. Amos said she had been shocked by conditions at an informal settlement she visited in Kabul. 
 
“These are the poorest of the poor and deserve our collective support. I also support longer-term support efforts to come up with durable solutions that address underlying issues such as land tenure, basic service provision and economic opportunity,” she said. 
 
Ms. Amos noted that more than one third of Afghanistan’s population has personal experience of displacement, including 5.6 million returned refugees, 5 million people who are still in neighbouring countries and 500,000 internally displaced people. She called for timely relief and assistance, delivered impartially to those in acute need. 
 
Ms. Amos spoke of the heart-wrenching stories about the impact of conflict that she heard from internally displaced families during a visit to Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan. 
 
“After decades of war, people want peace, stability, and an environment free from fear and torment. I again call on all parties to the ongoing conflict to meet their obligations under international humanitarian law and for more to be done to ensure civilians are kept free from harm,” she said. 
 
During a visit on Thursday to the banks of the Amu Darya river in Buzareg village, Balkh Province, Ms. Amos saw the destruction caused by riverbank erosion. This consumes more than 500 metres of land each year, destroying homes, agricultural land and livelihoods, schools, roads and clinics.  
 
“Natural disasters occur in Afghanistan on a regular basis. Annual flooding is the norm and there have been eight droughts in 11 years. More must be done to help local authorities prepare better, and we must make a greater effort to build the resilience of communities,” Ms. Amos said.    
 
Reporting by UN Kabul