The United Nations is appealing for a record $5 billion to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to 28 million people in Afghanistan and in five neighboring countries of refuge this year.
The bulk of the funds — $4.4 billion — will provide vital relief for 22 million people in Afghanistan, nearly half of the country’s population. This is the largest ever appeal for humanitarian assistance for a single country — but then the needs of this country are enormous.
The United Nations warns Afghanistan is becoming one the world’s worst, fastest growing humanitarian crises. It says half of Afghanistan’s population is facing acute hunger, more than nine million people are internally displaced, and millions of children are out of school.
U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Martin Griffiths, says farmers and herders are struggling to survive amid the worst drought in decades. He says people need help to endure the impact of years of conflict and of a shattered economy.
“Up to a million children under five if we do not get assistance to them will suffer from severe and acute malnutrition,” he said. “We need to get food to the families where they live. We need to get seeds to the farmers where they plow. We need to get health services to the clinics in locations throughout the country. And we need protection services for all those people who want to return home.”
Afghanistan is facing a massive problem of internal and external displacement. More than nine million people are displaced inside the country — about one third because of conflict. More than six million Afghan refugees are living in neighboring countries, mostly in Pakistan and Iran.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, says it is urgent to help sustain Afghanistan’s economy and public services to ward off more large-scale displacements.
“If the country collapses, implodes—we have said it so many times—but it is worth repeating, then we may see a much bigger exodus of people,” he said. “The key issue here is to transform this massive internal displacement — probably the biggest in the world in terms of numbers – and prevent this from becoming a massive external displacement, which is a very major risk at this point.”
Grandi urges the international community to do everything it can to prevent a catastrophe in Afghanistan. He warns this would further drive displacement both within the country and throughout the region.
The U.N. Says it needs $623 million to support 5.7 million Afghan refugees and the communities hosting them in neighboring countries. The funds will provide protection, health and nutrition, food, shelter, water and sanitation, education, and other essential relief.