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OCHA holds briefing on the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan

02 Feb 2021

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Displaced children in Dand District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, December 2020. © OCHA/Fariba Housaini

OCHA held a virtual briefing today for UN Member States and partners on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, including an update on the 2021 humanitarian needs and response plan and perspectives on the way forward.

At the opening of the session, the UN Acting Assistant-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ramesh Rajasingham, emphasized that the meeting was taking place as Afghanistan slides deeper into crisis.

“Forty years of war and displacement, mixed with climate shocks and now COVID-19, have left almost half of Afghanistan’s population needing emergency aid,” said Mr. Rajasingham, who moderated the briefing.

The UN deputy humanitarian chief said that the number of people in need has doubled from 9.4 million at the start of 2020 to 18.4 million in 2021 – of a population of 40.4 million. Four in 10 people are now going hungry, which means that almost 17 million people are in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity through March 2021. And almost half of all children will be acutely malnourished this year.

“Few other places in this world have seen suffering soar so quickly in recent times,” he said, noting that conflict and violence continue to kill civilians at an alarming rate, despite Intra-Afghan peace negotiations.

He further noted that, “Despite the increased health needs due to COVID-19, health facilities and workers continue to suffer harm from attacks, and acts of intimidation by parties to the conflict. Targeted attacks on schools and educational facilities also demand a renewed commitment by all parties to the conflict to uphold international humanitarian law and adopt measures to safeguard learning spaces for the next generation. We have seen so much progress over the last few years, we simply cannot afford to have any reversal in that, especially in education for girls.”

The UN deputy humanitarian chief visited Afghanistan in December to draw attention to the massive and widespread increase in humanitarian needs.

“Afghanistan’s real hope for a safe, secure, sustainable future lies in a life free of conflict which can only be obtained through a successful peace negotiations process. Until that day becomes a reality, we must do all we can to provide a lifeline of support to the people of Afghanistan,” he said at today’s briefing.

Also speaking at the briefing were Mrs. Adela Raz, Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the UN; Mr. Raouf Mazou, UN Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees; and Mr. Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan.

The full briefing is available on UN Web TV.

The updated Humanitarian Response Plan for Afghanistan is available online.