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Press Release

IRC urges leaders to protect civilians and safeguard aid workers in Afghanistan, as displacement and humanitarian needs increase 

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As power shifts in major Afghanistan cities of Herat, Kandahar, and as of today, Jalalabad, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) calls upon world leaders to commit to the protection of civilians and support humanitarian workers to deliver lifesaving aid in all areas of control.

The latest increase in fighting has put record levels of civilians in danger, with women and girls bearing the brunt of the violence. Meanwhile, Afghanistan has endured decades of crisis and around half the population are already in need of humanitarian support as a result of COVID-19 and drought. Needs will only grow, making the humanitarian response a lifeline. 

The severity of the situation brings new urgency to ensure all Afghans in need of aid can be reached. Afghans deserve and are entitled to aid based on their needs, not whose control they live under. Yet the humanitarian response remains just 38% funded. The IRC urges the international donor community to provide flexible funding in Afghanistan directly to NGOs on the ground, who have been present in these communities for years, who understand the needs, have the trust and can scale up and adapt quickly. The deteriorating and uncertain context demands a rapid and agile humanitarian response and we call in donors to facilitate our operations in all areas of control. 

Today, the IRC has launched a $10 million appeal to raise much needed funds for the emergency response in Afghanistan to ensure our teams can continue to deliver lifesaving aid in areas of conflict, as well as to provide emergency cash assistance and protection services for internally displaced people in Kabul.

Amanda Catanzano, IRC Senior Director for International Programs Policy & Advocacy, said:

“Humanitarians like the IRC have remained in Afghanistan through crisis after crisis and have proven remarkably effective in delivering impartial and principled responses in challenging operating environments, regardless of who is in power. But we urgently need the financial and diplomatic support of the international community to do so effectively, securely, and without legal risk.

“As the largest donor to the humanitarian response in Afghanistan, US leadership is critical right now. Civilians, particularly women and girls, are in grave danger and the Biden administration should use its diplomatic muscle to call for an immediate nationwide ceasefire to halt the spiralling violence and facilitate the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian aid and services.

“The delivery of those services often rests on women who are able to access communities and create safe spaces for women and girls. The international community, including the United States, UK and European Union, should recognize this and push all parties involved in the conflict to commit to unfettered humanitarian access and ensure that all aid workers can safely operate across the country.

“Meanwhile, many people will be forced to flee Afghanistan and although the overwhelming majority of refugees will turn to neighbouring countries, high income states and regions like the US, UK and EU should also take responsibility for those who will seek protection outside of the country. Current resettlement efforts are simply not enough: the USA’ SIV and P2 resettlement programs benefit just 1% of Afghans. Borders should be kept open and the international community should provide funding for refugee responses in host countries and resettlement pathways. Neighboring states cannot be left to shoulder this responsibility alone. 

“This situation cannot go ignored, and the IRC calls on all world leaders to stand side by side with the Afghan people and humanitarian organisations who are committed to the people of Afghanistan.”

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

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. 

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.