UNITED NATIONS: The UN and partners launched their largest ever country-specific appeal for Afghanistan on Tuesday as Pakistan called for the revival of banking systems in the war-torn country.
Addressing a special session to mark the launching of the $5 billion appeal, Pakistan’s ambassador at the UN mission in Geneva urged the international community also to consider Afghanistan’s economic needs.
“Absence of liquidity and banking systems would spur illicit financing and exacerbate security concerns and risks,” Ambassador Khalil-ur-Rahman Hashmi said.
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths also supported this stance. “Humanitarian agencies inside Afghanistan can only operate if there’s cash in the economy which can be used to pay officials, salaries, costs, fuel and so-forth,” he said.
“So, liquidity in its first phase is a humanitarian issue, it’s not just a bigger economic issue.”
A UN statement said their largest-ever single-country appeal aimed to shore up collapsing basic services in Afghanistan, which have left 22 million in need of assistance inside the country, and 5.7 million people requiring help beyond its borders.
Mr Griffiths said they need $4.4 billion for the Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan alone, “to pay direct” to health workers and others, not the de facto Taliban authorities. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called for $623 million, to support refugees and host communities in five neighbouring countries, for the Afghanistan Situation Regional Refugee Response Plan. Pakistan is top on the list of host nations.
No-one should forget “that there is a regional dimension to this crisis, … especially in Pakistan and Iran that have hosted Afghans for more than 40 years,” he said.
Ambassador Hashmi said that despite financial constraints, Pakistan was providing humanitarian support, transit and trade facilities and recently hosted an OIC meeting to galvanise humanitarian assistance.
“Much more needs to be done, now is not the time to abandon the people,” said the Pakistani envoy while acknowledging that there were, “of course, legitimate concerns around the state of human rights, the nature of power-sharing and terrorism in Afghanistan” and these concerns “should be addressed meaningfully.”
Similarly, “a further review of sanctions is essential to save lives, revive the banking system and enable basic services,” he said, while adding that “linking sanctions with humanitarian assistance would be unwise.”
Ambassador Hashmi stressed that providing help inside Afghanistan was both cost-effective and a durable solution. “Amidst this crisis also lies an opportunity to chart a path for a sustainable peace and development in Afghanistan after decades of conflict.”
UN officials pointed out that although this was “the largest ever appeal for a single country, … the scale of need was enormous too.”
The statement warned that “if insufficient action is taken now to support the Afghanistan and regional response plans, next year we’ll be asking for $10 billion”. Mr Griffiths rejected suggestions that the funding could strengthen the Taliban’s grip on power, pointing out that it would go directly into the pockets of “nurses and health officials in the field.”
UN aid agencies describe Afghanistan’s plight as one of the world’s most rapidly growing humanitarian crises. The UN humanitarian coordination office reported recently that half the population faced acute hunger, over nine million people abandoned their homes and millions of children were out of school.
“A million children risk starvation” if they did not receive immediate help, said Mr. Griffiths while reiterating his support for the Dec 22 UN Security Council resolution that cleared the way for aid to reach Afghans, without falling into Taliban’s hands.
“My message is urgent: don’t shut the door on the people of Afghanistan,” he said. “Help us scale up and stave off wide-spread hunger, disease, malnutrition and ultimately death by supporting the humanitarian plans we are launching today.”
UNHCR chief Grandi said the most urgent need was “to stabilise the situation inside Afghanistan and to prevent a larger refugee crisis, a larger crisis of external displacement.”
Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2022