On Monday 13th September, senior UK government and UN agency officials will meet to review aid efforts in Afghanistan following the Taliban take-over of power, and as millions of Afghans continue to suffer acute needs caused by the Covid19 pandemic, drought, ongoing violence and forced displacement.
UK-based international NGOs continue to provide life-saving assistance and protection to vulnerable populations across Afghanistan, but say they face spiralling challenges and barriers arising from political, security and economic dynamics playing out in the country.
The UN Secretary General has warned that the humanitarian response remains woefully underfunded, standing at just 38% of the funding needed, and these funding gaps could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe if left unaddressed.
Whilst the British Government has started to reverse some of the aid cuts in Afghanistan, questions remain as to how it channels its funds to support community-based coping strategies, life-saving aid and protection most effectively.
Stephanie Draper, CEO of Bond the UK network for organisations working in international development said:
“The government’s approach to aid is not working effectively in Afghanistan right now. The heart of the problem is that the government has whittled away its capacity to administer aid in a targeted way to those aid agencies best placed to work on the ground. The government’s default to channel funds via the UN and big private sector contractors doesn’t reflect the reality on the ground. It is civil society groups, both international and local, who are there and continue to deliver assistance. The government needs to get support to these groups by ensuring funds get to NGOs doing community-based work in a flexible and timely manner – a new Rapid Response Fund would allow this to happen.”
Elizabeth Winter, Executive Director of BAAG said:
“An effective and principled approach to assistance needs to be prioritised by all those involved in delivering humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, including the British government, other donors and UN agencies. This must include a collective effort to secure urgent, life-saving medical assistance, an impartial needs assessment and a recognition of the critical role women play in aid delivery.”
Janet Symes, Head of Asia Region at CAFOD said:
“Donor governments, including the UK, must take urgent action to enable safe, legal and sustainable payment routes so that aid agencies can get humanitarian aid to those who need it. There is a liquidity crisis in the Afghan banking system making it very difficult to transfer or withdraw funds in the country, which is seriously impeding our health, food, water and other projects helping Afghan people to cope with the crisis. Beyond this, sanctions and counter-terror measures can also impact on the ability of aid agencies to get funds into Afghanistan. It is very likely that British banks and others inevitably adopt a risk averse approach, which can mean aid projects get delayed by days, weeks and even months, and this could cost lives. Afghan NGOs are especially impacted by this; lacking the reserve funds and legal capacity of international agencies. We need to see British Ministers working with their counterparts in other donor governments and the banking sector to ensure this doesn’t happen.”
Currently, more than half the Afghan population is in need of humanitarian assistance and one-third is food insecure. These needs have now been exacerbated due to drought and a 73 percent rise in internal displacement since June. Nearly 592,000 people have been uprooted and internally displaced from their homes since the beginning of 2021. At least 80 percent of those displaced internally are believed to be women and children. Bond and BAAG members also highlight the importance of providing support to refugees and people travelling out of the country, as well as to neighbouring countries to help them respond to the scale and gravity of the crisis.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. The High-level Ministerial Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan will take place on Monday, 13 September from 2pm to 4pm UK time, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Geneva (CET) / 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. New York (EDT). The event will be hosted by UN Secretary-General Guterres and will be convened at the ministerial level.
2. Established in 1987, the British and Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group (BAAG) is an umbrella organisation of 28 British and Irish NGOs delivering vital development, rights and humanitarian programmes in Afghanistan. BAAG works with Afghan civil society to champion the voices, needs and recommendations of Afghans.
3. Bond is the UK network for organisations working in international development. Bond unites and supports a diverse network of over 400 civil society organisations from across the UK, and allies to help eradicate global poverty, inequality and injustice.
4. The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and part of Caritas International and has worked in Afghanistan since the late 1980s.
5. For further information or interviews please contact Maryam Mohsin on 07555 336029 or [email protected]