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Afghanistan: UN calls for ‘vital funding’ to avert humanitarian crisis


Kabul : The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) says donors must provide “vital funding” to enable aid agencies to avert a possible humanitarian crisis this winter.

UN agencies and the Afghan government on July 9 launched a joint appeal for US$404 million to mitigate the impact of high food prices and drought which have forced over five million people into “high risk” food insecurity, but so far donors have only pledged a small fraction of the requested funds, aid workers said.

“It’s vital to see this money comes into Afghanistan… [The funds] will enable us to ensure that current problems do not become a crisis,” Dan McNorton, a spokesman for UNAMA, told IRIN.

The UN call for urgent funding echoes a warning issued by Oxfam International on Aug 30 about a possible humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

“This is a race against time, the international community needs to respond quickly before winter when conditions deteriorate. The health of one million young children and half a million women is at serious risk due to malnutrition,” Oxfam said in a statement.

Oxfam warned that if donors fail to respond quickly and sufficiently “people could be forced to sell assets or leave their homes and villages, and there could be a further deterioration of stability.”

The UN said it supported Oxfam’s calls for increased and urgent funding.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said five million people, most of them women and children, have been affected by drought and high food prices and are in need of food aid.

“Hundreds of thousands of children under five years of age and their mothers may not be able to meet their nutritional needs, robbing them of future development opportunities,” said Susana Rico, WFP country representative.

Aid agencies are concerned that worsening food insecurity may reverse the progress made recently on maternal and infant mortality rates: “Infant, child and maternal mortality rates – already some of the world’s highest – could increase even further,” Oxfam said.

One in five children dies before his/her fifth birthday due to malnutrition and preventable and curable diseases, according to the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

Afghanistan suffered one of its worst winters in three decades in 2007 when extremely cold weather, heavy snow, avalanches and lack of access to food and health services took the lives of over 1,000 people, according to statistics from the Afghanistan National Disasters Management Authority.

Aid agencies say relief supplies must reach vulnerable rural communities before access becomes problematic in winter.