Australian Government Should Not Drag Heels on Afghan-Aid

07 Dec, 2021

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) has issued a public call for the Australian Government to urgently unlock humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan as the country faces humanitarian disaster.  
ACFID has expressed concerns that the Australian Government is not acting with sufficient speed and purpose on Afghanistan to support global efforts to prevent human suffering, state collapse, regional instability, increased risk of violence, and a global refugee crisis.  
With a harsh winter looming and access to international funds frozen, the number of people in need of assistance in Afghanistan is now surpassing those in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, according to recent figures. UNICEF has warned that 1 million children suffering from severe malnutrition may die without treatment.  
Marc Purcell, Chief Executive Officer of ACFID said: 
“The Government must fast track aid to Afghanistan and explain whether recent commitments have translated to assistance on the ground. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister have made clear-cut commitments, but humanitarian agencies on the ground are saying: it’s not getting through fast enough. Afghans are suffering and facing crisis. 
“We need to know from the Government that Australia's support is getting through, they are doing everything they can to knock down the barriers that stand in its way and plan to scale up efforts to save lives ahead of the harsh winter.” 
In the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) – a global standard for assessing food insecurity – found 22.8 million people could face acute risk, while 8.7 million face emergency levels of hunger – a record in the ten years the United Nations has been conducting IPC analyses in the country. 
Women and girls are the most at-risk in Afghanistan and are the first to feel the impacts of conflict and the current instability. Gaps in humanitarian funding at this crucial time risks losing the achievements that have been made in protecting the rights of Afghan women and girls. 
Purcell said: 
“Just months ago, the world watched as chaos, violence and uncertainty erupted in Afghanistan. This has been exacerbated by sanctions which resulted in frozen funds and assets and the closure of lifesaving humanitarian programs. With 1 million children projected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition, Australia must do everything in its power to ensure assistance is getting through.” 
ACFID has said that Australia is currently out of step with other international donors including the US, UK and the European Union who are working quickly to overcome the barriers of getting aid on the ground. 
In September, the US issued two general licenses to support the continued flow of humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan under its own sanctions regime. The UK has issued guidance to NGOs on operating in Afghanistan and the EU has established guiding principles for future engagement with the Taliban. 
A key point in negotiating humanitarian access under UN Security Council (UNSC) sanctions will occur this month when the 1988 UNSC Sanctions against the Taliban come up for review. 
Purcell continued: 
“The Australian Government must work with like-minded partners to urge UN Security Council members to establish a humanitarian exemption under the sanctions regime. Australia can also start by providing clarifying guidance to humanitarian agencies on how they can operate in Afghanistan under UN sanctions. So far, this has not happened. 
“UN and humanitarian agencies have been clear that they will stay and deliver. We need Australia to do the same and build on the existing funding to reach $100 million annually in multi-year funding. We must commit to providing vital assistance to Afghans in the years to come. 
“Additional funding will enable these humanitarian agencies to respond to hunger, health, protection, and displacement needs, as well as to help vulnerable families preparing for the bitter winter ahead.” 
Such funding should also be provided to Afghan NGOs to enable scaled-up programming that meets the emergency needs of vulnerable communities, including religious and ethnic minorities and women and girls. 
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