Press Release - Afghanistan: Aid Agencies Ask the UN Security Council for Assistance to Reach Communities and Avoid Humanitarian Crisis
Today, as members of the UN Security Council are visiting Afghanistan, aid agencies working in the country report that their operating environment is becoming increasingly difficult.
Access to communities in need of assistance and protection is shrinking day by day. Thirty humanitarian workers have been killed so far in 2008 – twice as many as last year. Eighty have been kidnapped. Agencies have also had to suspend or modify operations in areas where they have worked for decades due to security concerns. If this trend continues, the people of Afghanistan could soon remain without assistance.
The aid agencies therefore welcome the UN visit as an important recognition of the necessity for urgent and coordinated action to meet the country’s serious humanitarian and development needs. But, to make certain that Afghans continue to receive assistance, they are asking the UN ambassadors to ensure that:
Humanitarian assistance is delivered according to humanitarian principles throughout the country.
Urgent action is taken to expand humanitarian access with civilian means.
International military forces operate in accordance to international and Afghan specific guidelines on civil-military coordination.
Humanitarian funding to the agencies working with people of Afghanistan is still secured despite the financial crisis.
CARE International reports that insecurity has spread to previously stable provinces across the country, even to the outskirts of Kabul. “We have been delivering aid and assistance in Afghanistan since 1961 and we have never been as limited in our movements as we are today,” said CARE International country director in Afghanistan, Lex Kassenberg.
Yet Afghanistan is not only struggling with a worsening security situation. The country is also facing a deepening humanitarian crisis. Due to the global rise in food prices, which in Afghanistan has been aggravated by drought, 8.4 million people (one third of the population) are now considered food insecure.
Niamh Murnaghan, resident representative for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Kabul points out that with the onset of another harsh Afghan winter, which cost 1,000 lives last year, concerns for the food insecure are rising. “People desperately need our assistance and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. The problem now is that it is increasingly difficult for us to reach those in need.”
The World Food Programme has lost more than US$ 840,000 worth of food in attacks on food convoys entering Afghanistan. Twenty five attacks have been carried out in 2008 alone. Aid agencies are also struggling to get staff and resources around the country. “Travelling by road is almost impossible in large parts of the country,” said Ciaran Donnelly, country director of the International Rescue Committee in Afghanistan. “Communities that we could visit freely six months ago are currently off limits to our staff”.
Increased road insecurity has led to a reliance on air transportation. However, civilian flight capacity is extremely weak and there has been a tendency to over-rely on the military for logistic support.
Anne Garella, head of mission for Action contre la Faim said: “Reports from the field clearly indicate that the security of aid agencies lies in keeping a clear distance from military actors. Being forced to constantly rely on military forces to get items transported to areas in need is unacceptable because it puts aid agency staff in danger.”
GB Adhikari, country director for ActionAid Afghanistan pointed out that aid agencies deliver 80 percent of humanitarian assistance across the world. “More must be done by the international community and the Government of Afghanistan to ensure that aid agencies can continue to work in Afghanistan.
“Non governmental organisations have been the backbone of service delivery in Afghanistan for decades and still provide education and health care to millions of Afghans. If it becomes impossible for such agencies to operate in Afghanistan, the Afghan people are those who will suffer the most,” he concluded.