Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates,
Let me paint you a picture of what 2023 will look like for Afghanistan’s estimated 40 million.
Winter has already arrived in parts of Afghanistan, and for millions it will be cold and dreary. They will have little food, little fuel – and they will struggle to keep their children warm and fed.
What has been an already dire humanitarian situation across the country throughout this year will only get worse next year. More than 28 million people – two-thirds of the total population – will need humanitarian assistance, up from 18 million just two years ago.
Every province in the country is affected, whether it’s rural or urban communities. Indeed, a large majority of the 34 main urban areas of Afghanistan, including the city of Kabul, face humanitarian needs qualified as “extremely serious”. This indicates how pervasive and blind suffering is.
Acute food insecurity and malnutrition will continue to increase.
An impressive 20 million people are already in crisis or emergency food insecurity at IPC Phase 3 or above. Nearly six million of these people are in IPC Phase 4. This makes Afghanistan one of the countries in the world with the highest number of people at risk of starvation.
Water will continue to be scarce as Afghanistan enters its third consecutive drought and its already weak water infrastructure falters even further. In the midst of a cholera epidemic and a malnutrition crisis, a shortage of water is fatal, especially for children.
Poverty and misery will worsen as the economic crisis deepens and people continue to lose their jobs and livelihoods. Families now spend at least 75% of their income on food, leaving little left over for other essential needs, such as healthcare, education and emergencies.
And women, the backbone of any society, are still denied their basic rights. Today marks 425 days since teenage girls were banned from school. It is an absolute abomination.
Humanitarian partners continue to provide assistance in all 401 districts of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, reaching more than 24 million people this year. Although our physical access has improved in previous years, Afghanistan remains a difficult and insecure place to work, with humanitarians operating in volatile environments and facing threats, intimidation and risks, including violence. physical and detentions.
One of the biggest hurdles for the humanitarian community is the shrinking space for Afghan aid workers. Across the country, they face a variety of challenges that impact their ability to participate in the humanitarian response. Chief among these is the mahram requirement – the requirement that when traveling beyond 72 km they must be accompanied by a male relative. We work with de facto authorities at national and sub-national levels to ensure the safe and unhindered movement of our female colleagues. Women play a crucial and unique role in humanitarian action, and without their secure, meaningful and full engagement, our ability to deliver assistance and services to women beneficiaries will be compromised.
As we approach the new year, I would like to draw your attention to three critical areas.
First, we must ensure that we have all the funds we need to carry out our humanitarian work. Afghan winters are extremely cold and people have run out of food. A critical overwintering program is underway and we urgently need $150 million, at a minimum, to secure stocks of supplies we need, such as food and shelter materials. And next year’s humanitarian response plan will require strong support.
Second, we must recognize that humanitarian aid alone is not enough to save lives in Afghanistan. Relief work does not replace the provision of basic services. Despite the challenges, we must find ways to increase programs in Afghanistan that support rural and urban economies and national service delivery structures. This will require donors to release funds for these types of programs and some technical assistance initiatives to national institutions. We welcome the work done under the leadership of the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Ramiz Alakbarov, to develop a strategic framework for the years 2023 to 2025, which will focus on recovery, resilience and development.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, the de facto Taliban authorities must allow women to return to public life. The brutal exclusion of women and girls by the Taliban from schools, employment, recreation and political life has real humanitarian consequences that will reverberate long into the future. The recent decision by de facto authorities to impose even harsher measures on women and girls – effectively preventing them from walking in the park or bringing their children to the playground – will further damage mental wellbeing. and physical condition of women and girls, and likely plunge Afghan families into greater destitution.
The challenges we face in Afghanistan are profound and serious. But nevertheless, we must stay the course and stand with its people.
Thousands of dedicated UN staff and NGO partners – both national and international – remain committed to helping Afghans at this time of great need. We must continue to extend these humanitarian interventions to the most vulnerable. But, at the same time, increased efforts must also be made to provide basic services, support the economy and support the restoration of people’s livelihoods.
A lot has been done this year and there is still a lot to do next year.
- United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA’s activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.