Displaced children at the Ada Mazar settlement in Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit: OCHA/Christophe Verhellen
UN calls for more winter support for displaced families in Kabul.
The UN has warned that more funding and long-term support are needed to help tens of thousands of displaced people in Kabul cope with Afghanistan’s harsh winter weather.
“We don’t have anything,” said Halima, a widow and mother of eight living in Kabul’s Ada Mazar settlement. “We urgently need food and fuel to face the winter.”
Ada Mazar is one of 55 informal settlements in Kabul where thousands of families live in makeshift tents and mud houses without proper protection from the cold, and with limited access to clean water and medical care. Dozens of children died from hypothermia in these settlements last winter, prompting the Government and aid agencies to step up winter aid with the help of the Kabul Informal Settlement Task Force
UN agencies and humanitarian partners started distributing winter aid supplies, including warm meals, clothing, blankets and firewood, to over 5,000 families living in the settlements at the beginning of December. Last week, the World Food Programme reached more than 4,500 children under five with high energy biscuits.
Funding for humanitarian work is a problem in Afghanistan, where the needs are enormous. Last year, UN agencies and their partners appealed for US$448 million for urgent life-saving work, but received less than 50 per cent of this amount. This year’s appeal for $471m has not received any funding so far, making Afghanistan one of the top five under-funded crises in the world.
“There is an Afghanistan fatigue among the international donors,” said the Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, Mark Bowden. “Donors have invested a lot of funds in the country over the past few years, and now they tend to forget us as there are other crises that also require funds but we must reverse this tendency because we urgently need more funds if we want to save lives.”
Mr. Bowden visited the Ada Mazar settlement last month to assess the humanitarian situation. Urban informal settlements are often located on private land where people are not allowed to build more permanent structures like houses, schools and hospitals.
The winter aid response is providing some relief but longer-term solutions are needed to help families cope with cold weather and provide access to proper shelter, schools, health facilities and jobs. These long-term solutions include improved rural development, urban planning, and the recognition of people’s rights to housing and property.
“The real message is that displacement isn't going away, but we haven't yet found the right ways of addressing it because of the complexity of the problem,” said Mr. Bowden. “Essentially, what you are dealing with is a very vulnerable population. When you add to that a greater risk of natural hazards such as cold, floods and drought, it does require a far stronger response than we have at the moment.”