UNICEF appeals for more aid to help women, children


Kabul : In 2007 floods, diseases, drought and armed conflict have increased the need for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, the UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF) said in its donor update report issued on July 26. Women and children have been particularly affected, it said.

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"UNICEF urgently requires US$7 million to respond to the needs of children and women,â€? UNICEF said in its report entitled Humanitarian Action, Afghanistan – Donor Update Report.

Catherine Mbengue, UNICEF representative in Afghanistan, told IRIN that 200,000 children would receive humanitarian assistance through an emergency programme for which urgent funding was being sought. In addition, 2.2 million children will benefit from educational interventions.

"Thousands of families have either been displaced or lost their livelihoods and face the threat of disease outbreaks," Mbengue said in her office in Kabul.

The UN agency will spend the requested funds on medical supplies, tents, sanitation services, education and protection efforts.

Since the ousting of the Taliban over five years ago and the launch of rebuilding and development efforts, war-ravaged Afghanistan is still considered a complex humanitarian emergency, aid officials say.

The country has one of the highest child and maternal mortality rates in the world, with 1,600 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, and one in four children die before their fifth birthday, according to the UN.

"Seven percent [of children] suffer from acute malnutrition and 54 percent of them are chronically malnourished," UNICEF said.

Furthermore, over 28 floods that occurred in the first half of 2007 have affected some 10,000 Afghan families across the country. According to the Afghan disaster management body, 2007 has so far seen over 150 people die in flash floods and avalanches, with hundreds of houses washed away.

Afghanistan, particularly its southern, eastern and southeastern provinces, also suffers from an armed insurgency.

More than half of primary school age Afghan children, about two million, are deprived of schooling, UNICEF says.

"The crisis is not causing new problems. It is aggravating old and current vulnerabilities," Mbengue said.

As of May 2007, the UN did not have permanent access to about 41 percent of districts in Afghanistan, UNICEF confirmed in the report.

"In inaccessible areas we operate through government institutions or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or third parties," Mbengue said.

UNICEF’s report calls for over $15 million to respond to humanitarian needs in the country. Canada, Norway, Australia, the Netherlands and some other donors have contributed over $9 million to the requested annual emergency fund, to date, leaving some $7 million still required.