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Press Release

Afghans must not pay twice for inaction: insufficient funding will put the lives of millions of Afghans at risk, warns David Miliband ahead of UN conference

As donors convene in Geneva to address the worsening crisis in Afghanistan, the IRC calls for governments to urgently increase funding to the humanitarian appeal in Afghanistan, and ensure funds quickly reach frontline humanitarians. Donors should also firmly commit to promoting and protecting humanitarian access for all aid workers, including women. With 18.4 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, significant displacement combined with rising levels of COVID-19 and acute food security needs, Afghans need urgent and life-saving assistance.

David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said,

“Afghans must not pay twice over for failures of the international community: first for war and now for neglect. While international attention has been understandably focused on evacuations, 40 million Afghans remain in a country on the verge of a humanitarian meltdown. Afghans were already enduring one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises before this latest unraveling, resulting from the intersection of conflict, COVID-19, and climate change. Today, nearly half the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. Recent turmoil has brought Afghanistan’s economy, health system and social services to the brink, and will only make fresh demands on the response, which is already desperately stretched.

“Today’s conference presents an opportunity for the international community to make good on their commitment to stand by the Afghan people. Military withdrawal must not mean humanitarian, economic or diplomatic withdrawal. 

“Afghans need and deserve life-saving humanitarian aid regardless of whose control they live under. With a collosal $766 million funding shortfall just as needs are increasing, the human cost of under funding the humanitarian response is plain to see: 12 million people will not be able to obtain critical health services, while 1.4 million women will be left without safe places to receive comprehensive support and 1.2 million children will lose specialised services to reduce their exposure to violence, recruitment into armed groups, child labour, early marriage, and sexual exploitation.

“More funding is just one part of the solution; the crisis in Afghanistan also demands unwavering diplomatic support for the delivery of principled humanitarian assistance to all who need it. Women aid workers play a vital role in the response, having the ability to reach the women and children who make up 75% of those in need. Leaders convened in Geneva today should commit to using all diplomatic channels to ensure all aid workers can safely operate across the country free from interference by any armed group.

“With the increased funding and diplomatic backing, humanitarians can scale up. But our efforts alone cannot fill the massive gaps created by a collapsing economy and public service delivery. Pausing funding that underpins vital services without a plan B is shameful. It is Afghan civilians who will suffer the consequences of these decisions. For example, when health systems lose funding and supplies cannot function, minor illnesses become life-threatening, disease outbreaks spiral, and otherwise treatable malnutrition threatens the health and lives of a generation of children. When teachers go unpaid and children lose out on education, we see a rise in child marriage, exploitation and abuse. Donors should come together without delay to identify an alternative mechanism that can deliver at scale with independent monitoring. At minimum, it is vital that donors ensure civil servant salaries are paid so healthcare and other lifesaving and sustaining services can continue.

“IRC teams are on the ground and ready to respond to the humanitarian emergency in Afghanistan but without diplomatic support and funding from world leaders along with pragmatic steps to stave off the collapse of vital service delivery, the future of millions of Afghans is in jeopardy.”

The IRC began work in Afghanistan in 1988, and now works with thousands of villages across nine provinces, with Afghans making up more than 99% of IRC staff in the country. As Afghanistan struggles to recover from ongoing conflict and natural disasters, the IRC: works with local communities to identify, plan and manage their own development projects, provides safe learning spaces in rural areas, community based education, cash distribution provides uprooted families with tents, clean water, sanitation and other basic necessities, and helps people find livelihood opportunities as well as extensive resilience programming.   

To donate to the IRC's emergency response in Afghanistan, please click here.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 29 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue-uk.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.