Amidst a growing humanitarian crisis where hundreds of thousands of Afghan people are displaced and with winter quickly approaching, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Tuesday warned of “a race against time” to reach each and every individual with life-saving aid and preposition supplies ahead of winter.
Speaking via a videoconference from Kabul to a press briefing at the United Nations in Geneva, UNCHR’s spokesperson Babar Baloch said that “we need to scale up to kind of win this race against time. If you are not able to reach many people, the consequences can really be dire”.
According to UNHCR, half of the population, nearly 20 million Afghans, rely on humanitarian assistance and those needs are rising day by day.
During last week, UNHCR assisted some 40,000 displaced Afghans with solar panels, blankets, and warm clothes for the most vulnerable ones. “It’s a race against time for us to reach each and every individual and let's not forget: I mean, Afghanistan is among one of the world's worst humanitarian emergencies in the world with millions of people requiring relief including more than 3.5 million people forced to leave their homes because of insecurity,” Baloch said.
Before the Taliban takeover in August, Afghanistan’s fragile economy had been kept afloat by foreign aid for the past 20 years. Currently, the country’s assets are frozen and development aid paused. “Afghanistan needs an injection of cash in that sense on the basis of humanitarian consideration that what is happening inside the country,” stated UNHCR’s Baloch. “It is at a breaking point in terms of services and its economy, and that collapse has to be avoided at all costs.”
UNHCR is establishing a dedicated logistics hub for Afghanistan. The first of three flights is scheduled to arrive by the end of this week to bring in much-needed supplies from Uzbekistan which will then be trucked into Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan’s fourth biggest city.
The UN Refugee agency plans to reach this week an additional 60,000 people among the more than half a million displaced people. As temperature dip to near-freezing at night and with winter fast approaching, time is of the essence.
“The window is actually closing by every day in terms of the time we have to reach more and more (people),” Baloch said. “Let's not forget, winter in Afghanistan is harsh. Winter in Afghanistan can kill. If people do not have the resources and if you end up being under the open skies, it is really merciless.”
UNHCR continues to appeal to have unimpeded humanitarian access all around the country and to all the people in need. In terms of collaboration with the authorities on the ground, the agency’s Baloch said that “we rely on them for our security, there are encouraging signs in that sense, and they have been kind of highlighting to us the needs of the people on the ground as we go and do more assessments and bring in more supplies.”
G20 leaders and ministers will meet today by videoconference to discuss a UN proposal to channel funds to Afghanistan to ease its worsening humanitarian catastrophe. It will be the first meeting of the world’s richest countries to discuss the consequences of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover on 15 August.