UNITED NATIONS: A senior UN official in Afghanistan has said that millions of Afghans are on the brink of starvation as cold weather approaches and humanitarian funding runs low.
“The situation can be best described as pure catastrophe,” the UN Deputy Special Representative and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov, told a news briefing via video-link from Kabul on Monday.
Dr Alakbarov was providing an update on how the UN and partners have assisted nearly 23 million Afghans over the past year in the wake of the Taliban takeover.
They have maintained “probably the largest and the most unprecedented humanitarian lifeline delivery operation for the people of Afghanistan”, he said.
Currently, some 25 million Afghans are living in poverty, and “immediate and urgent attention” is needed to address rising food prices resulting from the global food crisis and the country’s economic decline.
Asked what would happen if the funding does not materialize, Dr Alakbarov spoke about his recent visit to a hospital in Kabul, conducted live on an international news broadcast. He saw malnourished children, which he described as “heartbreaking”.
Unfortunately, these children will not survive the harsh winter, he said – a season that makes life extremely difficult, particularly for people living in remote areas.
And while Afghans are known for their resilience and their ability to survive, some have resorted to negative coping strategies.
“You’ve seen people selling organs, you’ve seen people selling children. This has been widely covered in the media, and this is what we will be seeing again if support is not provided,” he said.
Through their efforts, humanitarians have helped to avert famine, kept hospitals open and running, and ensured medical staff as well as teachers were paid. They also rushed to support areas hit by flooding or the deadly earthquake in June.
Still, hundreds of thousands of girls are blocked from attending secondary school, while cholera outbreaks have occurred and other diseases have increased, including those affecting livestock.
“Moving forward, humanitarian needs will continue to be large, but the humanitarian assistance alone is not enough,” said Dr Alakbarov, underlining the need to address climate change, poverty, and lack of development, especially in the agricultural sector.
“Without functional markets, without (an) operating banking sector, without investments in basic-level jobs, we will not be able to reverse the trends which we are observing now in Afghanistan. We will not be able to bring people from surviving into a thriving mode.”