Afghanistan’s humanitarian response in dire funding crisis, warns UN agency

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As the 2023 Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) approaches its midway point, the situation remains dire, with funding falling far short of what is urgently needed, according to the latest report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The report says that as of 31 July, the response plan has received only US$744 million, which is less than half the amount received at the same time in 2022 ($1.49 billion).

The current crisis is exacerbated by the devastating impact of the third consecutive year of drought-like conditions, deepening poverty, and heightened vulnerabilities resulting from four decades of conflict, the report says, adding that the humanitarian needs have reached an all-time high, leaving millions of people at risk in Afghanistan.

The report highlights additional climate shocks, such as atypical flooding witnessed in August 2022, which affected one-third of the eastern region and may lead to further needs requiring an immediate response in the coming months.

The situation has prompted OCHA to prepare this document to support donor funding decisions and underscore the critical funding gaps in the humanitarian response across Afghanistan, the report states. It adds that these gaps encompass both the shortfalls in funding for each sector and cross-cutting areas, as well as the projected impact of continued underfunding from July to December 2023.

An internal reconciliation process conducted in July identified an additional $181.1 million in funding that is yet to be recorded on the Financial Tracking Service (FTS). Additionally, Clusters report a further $406 million in the pipeline. However, the report also emphasizes the need to clean up erroneous FTS funding streams, including those erroneously attributed to the HRP but intended for basic human needs programming (at least $26 million).

As things stand, the Afghanistan humanitarian response faces a staggering ‘critical funding gap’ amounting to $1.3 billion (excluding the funding in the pipeline), according to the report. Due to insufficient resources, many programs have already been closed, and the pipelines for essential clusters, such as FSAC, Nutrition, Protection, and WASH, are at risk of imminent rupture between July and September 2023, it says.

OCHA says that urgent funding is imperative to preposition vital winter and food assistance in areas at risk of being cut off as early as October, given the lengthy transport lead times, challenges in locally procuring certain items, and access constraints during winter.

In addition to the immediate needs for winter preparedness, humanitarian partners also require additional funding to continue reaching vulnerable groups, especially women and girls. Directives targeting female aid workers and women and girls by the Taliban have generated new needs, particularly those related to gender-based violence, demanding dedicated and tailored support, the report said.

The situation demands immediate and sustained international support to avert a humanitarian catastrophe, the organization concluded.