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While foreign troops are withdrawing and fighting increasing across the country, Action contre la Faim/Action Against Hunger warns of growing humanitarian needs and asks the international community not to forget the people of Afghanistan. Now isn’t the moment to let down thousands of Afghan families at risk.
Already for decades, Afghanistan has been stricken by civil war, conflict, and disasters such as earthquakes and droughts. In 2020, Covid-19 put an additional burden on the people, overwhelming health services. The ongoing strife further endangers the lives of civilians, reducing access to vital medical assistance and pushing them into exile. As of 14 July, more than 270.000 Afghans fled their homes, searching to find a safe area to protect their families.
"If the fighting continues, the number of displaced people in Afghanistan will most likely increase, beyond even the 500.000."
“If the fighting continues, the number of displaced people in Afghanistan will most likely increase, beyond even the 500.000 that were expected for 2021,” says Mike Bonke, Country Director of Action Against Hunger in Afghanistan. “Most of the displaced people will find some sort of shelter in Afghanistan, but I’m sure that there will be increased numbers of Afghans seeking asylum outside their country; mostly Iran and Pakistan, but also in Europe.”
Despite the difficult ongoing situation, Action Against Hunger continues to provide support in health, nutrition, and food security in different parts of the country. Mobile clinics provide emergency health support in hard-to-reach villages where no other assistance is available. In Afghanistan, where 80% of the population lives and survives on basic agriculture, COVID-19, the ongoing drought, and the conflict could break their backs after struggling over the past few decades.
“For us, the withdrawal of troops does not mean the end of our operations”, says Mike. “We are in contact with all parties to the conflict to continue to provide neutral and impartial assistance to the most affected and vulnerable population. ACF has been continuously operating in Afghanistan since 1996, and we will continue to do so, as much as we can alongside Afghan communities. There is a responsibility to help them and not just to walk away. Trillions of dollars have been wasted on war in this country. Why not have the willingness to spend equally on saving lives?”
As recalled by Action Against Hunger on July 16th at the United Nations Security Council, parties to the conflict must not obstruct humanitarian access and make decisions that hamper acceptance and neutrality of aid organizations. Humanitarian principles guide the work of ACF teams, and the shrinking of the space where they provide life-saving assistance is very worrying.
In Afghanistan today, 1 out of 2 children under the age of five suffers from acute malnutrition and requires life-saving treatment. This year, the country reached critical levels of food insecurity, affecting half the population of 40 million. If the conflict continues, providing support will be difficult, with limited access for organizations like Action Against Hunger. In the end, in Afghanistan, the most vulnerable people will always pay the highest price.
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