UN official in Afghanistan says country ‘at a tipping point’

UN Secretary General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, said in a series of tweets on Wednesday that Afghanistan is at a tipping point and that the urgent priority right now is to maintain the humanitarian response in the current operating environment to the best extent possible, avert famine, prevent disease outbreaks and avoid excess mortality.

“Needs in Afghanistan will deteriorate further unless humanitarian space improves and donors urgently step up to enable aid agencies to maintain the world’s largest response,” he said. “In 2023, $4.62 billion is needed to assist 23.7 million people and fend off hunger, disease and death.”

He said that while the Taliban de-facto authorities have taken a series of decisions that have negatively impacted the ability of humanitarian actors to mount a full-scale response, “this is not the time to turn our backs on the people of Afghanistan.”

He said the people of Afghanistan “need everyone’s solidarity.”

“The humanitarian and entire international community must do whatever they can to stay the course, including by releasing funding already allocated for Afghanistan and not withholding future funding,” he said.

This comes as the UN food agency said on April 11 that it urgently needs $800 million for the next six months to help the people of Afghanistan who are at the highest risk of famine in a quarter of a century.

While aid agencies have continued to roll out humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, funding has seen a rapid decline over the past few months following edicts by the Taliban against women – especially women working for NGOs and the United Nations.

The World Food Program, which has been severely hampered by the ban on women working for the UN – implemented last week – said women aid workers play a vital role in delivering the agency’s food and nutrition assistance and that it will make “every possible effort” to keep this going, while also trying to ensure the active involvement of female staff.

The organization stated: “The WFP urgently needs $800 million for the next six months to continue providing assistance to people in need across Afghanistan.

“Catastrophic hunger knocks on Afghanistan’s doors and unless humanitarian support is sustained, hundreds of thousands more Afghans will need assistance to survive,” the agency said.

This appeal coincided with the UN’s urgent appeal for funding for Afghanistan. The organization said that its operations in the country remain severely under-funded, with $249 million reported to be confirmed for 2023, nearly one-third of the amount received for the same period in 2022.

It said Afghanistan is dealing with its third consecutive year of drought-like conditions, a second year of crippling economic decline, and is still suffering from decades of conflict and natural disasters.