STORY: AFGHANISTAN UPDATE –UNHCR - WHO
SOURCE: UNTV CH
ASPECT RATIO: 16:9
DATELINE: 20 August 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
Aid access to Afghanistan holding amid uncertainty and fear: UN agencies
UN humanitarian agencies and their partners still have access to people in need across Afghanistan, they indicated on Friday, despite the prevailing “sense of fear” felt by many.
Speaking in Geneva, spokesperson for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) Shabia Mantoo, said that widespread fighting had diminished since the takeover of the Taliban last Sunday, but that concerns remained for the safety of women and girls.
Highlighting video footage taken earlier this week showing crowds outside Kabul airport and men clinging in desperation to departing airplanes on the runway, Ms. Shaboo warned that the people of Afghanistan who could not get away should not be forgotten.
“UNHCR remains concerned about the risk of human rights violations against civilians in this evolving context, including for women and girls,” she said. “As of today, those who may be in danger have no way out. UNHCR is calling on countries neighbouring Afghanistan to keep their borders open in light of the evolving crisis in Afghanistan.”
Addressing questions about humanitarian aid access constraints, the UNHCR official explained that around 200 national and international staff “remain on the ground” in Afghanistan. They have continued to work with 18 local non-government partners and have around 900 staff throughout the country.
“At present, we are able to access all provinces, and are working in some two-thirds of all districts,” Ms. Mantoo said.
“Together with the wider UN country team, we are committed to staying and delivering aid to the Afghan people for as long as we have access to populations in need and can ensure safety for our staff.”
The UN agency was not involved in State-led evacuation operations which although welcome, did not address the plight of many millions of Afghans.
“These evacuations are lifesaving, they’re critical, they’re needed,” she said. “But they are bilateral programmes organised with the States so we encourage those, they should continue. But the main message is that a broader international response is needed.”
Since the beginning of this year, UNHCR has provided emergency assistance to 230,000 people in the country.
This includes cash assistance, shelter kits, hygiene support and other relief items. In addition, needs assessments are ongoing for some half a million displaced Afghans, 80 per cent of whom are women and children.
Echoing the message of solidarity with the people of Afghanistan, UN health agency spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic insisted that the World Health Organization (WHO) was “committed to staying in Afghanistan and delivering critical health services. We’re calling all parties to respect and protect civilians, health workers, patients and health facilities.”
The WHO official added that most major health facilities were functioning and that health workers “have been called to return to, or to remain in their posts, including female health staff”.
With 550,000 people displaced inside Afghanistan this year and millions more prior to the chaos linked to the Taliban takeover, UNHCR issued an urgent appeal for $62.8 million to deal with immediate needs. Overall requirements for the Afghanistan situation are $351 million, with funding levels currently at 43 per cent.