We The Peoples
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We The Peoples

Facing catastrophe, Afghans need the world’s help

Displaced boy I met in Kabul. UNHCR was providing him and his family with assistance to survive.

Afghans have suffered too much already. And yet it is hard to overstate the scale of the looming catastrophe they face. Basic services are collapsing, food and vital aid is fast running out. The United Nations is committed to doing all we can, but we need the world to help us save lives.

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating rapidly. It was already dire before the Taliban seized power in August, with severe drought and the COVID pandemic arriving on the heels of decades of drawn-out conflict that has left 18 million, around half the population, in need of aid.

Now, with the provision of that aid uncertain, millions more risk sliding into abject poverty. By next year, 97% of the population could fall below the poverty line, a shocking new report by the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, has predicted. We cannot let that happen.

The needs are already acute. One third of Afghans don’t have enough to eat. More than half of the youngest children are on the brink of malnutrition, with a severe drought compounding food insecurity. Winter will bring harsh conditions to those without shelter. Millions of lives are at stake.

The world must act quickly to prevent calamity. The UN family is committed to staying on the ground and delivering aid. Now we are urgently seeking the necessary funding to scale up our lifesaving humanitarian operation to meet the needs of 11 million Afghans by the end of the year.

On Monday, I’ll moderate a donor pledging conference convened by UN Secretary General António Guterres. Also present will be Martin Griffith, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, who recently secured pledges from the Taliban to allow aid to reach those who need it.

Millions of Afghans — children, women, and men — are in need of basic and essential services. The UN has thousands of colleagues, mostly Afghans, on the ground, working alongside our NGO partners to provide them. They operate at great personal risk, navigating huge logistical challenges every day to save lives.

UN agencies and partners provide food and water, healthcare, and sanitation. We support farmers and help them keep producing food. We help provide community-based education and shelter to the internally displaced, whose numbers have increased by more than half a million this year alone.

And we are engaged in work to safeguard Afghanistan’s development. Afghan women and girls in particular need our support more than ever. Preserving their safety, well-being, and hard-won rights are our non-negotiable priorities. We want to see girls in school and women in work and governance positions.

At the donor conference, we’ll be seeking commitments from governments to help stabilize the Afghan economy and reduce the likelihood of people being forced to flee to feed their families. We are seeking direct food aid, help to rebuild infrastructure, and measures to prevent malnutrition.

There’s no time to delay. The fates of millions of innocent people hang in the balance. The international community has the power to save Afghans in their time of need. Through the UN, their support can come impartially, on strictly humanitarian grounds. With the world’s help, we can stay and deliver for the Afghan people.



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Melissa Fleming

Melissa Fleming


Chief Communicator #UnitedNations promoting a peaceful, sustainable, just & humane world. Author: A Hope More Powerful than the Sea. Podcast: Awake at Night.