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Humanitarian priorities for Afghanistan on World Humanitarian Day

Written by Sorcha O'Callaghan, Kerrie Holloway, Oliver Lough

Image credit:Freepik

The withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and quick takeover of the government by the Taliban will only exacerbate ongoing humanitarian need. This year, ODI is marking World Humanitarian Day by calling on world leaders to respond to the needs of crisis-affected people in Afghanistan and of Afghans seeking sanctuary in other countries.

In January, the UN estimated that nearly half the population of Afghanistan were in need of humanitarian assistance. With this number likely to rise, governments must act now on four humanitarian priorities:

  1. Diplomatic and financial support to Afghan and international organisations for accessing and supporting people in need. Humanitarian organisations working in Afghanistan have been underfunded for years, with current requirements only 37% funded. The international community will need to work quickly, with coordination and sufficient resources, to ensure that these organisations can maintain their ability to access vulnerable populations.

  2. Understand that risk and vulnerability extend beyond specific populations. Much attention has rightly centred around women and girls, as well as journalists, translators and others associated with international actors. However, these are not the only populations who are at risk and in need. Aid programmes and foreign assistance fund much of the country’s public services, and these are likely to decrease under a Taliban-led government. A more comprehensive understanding of vulnerability and how this evolves as the political situation becomes clearer is needed.

  3. Ensure safe and legal routes to refugee resettlement. There is an urgent requirement for international support to provide safe and legal routes out of the country for those at risk. While there have been welcome announcements of resettlement places for refugees, numbers are low. Commitments need to be matched with expedited processes, appropriate for the immediate needs of Afghans seeking resettlement.

  4. Facilitate the right of Afghans to leave and the right to claim asylum. Alongside refugee resettlement, countries should allow Afghans to leave, to not be stopped at borders and to not be deterred from requesting and securing asylum. There are already concerning indications of a reinforcing of the Turkey–Iran border, as well as early indications that spontaneous asylum flows to Europe and the UK are unwelcome. While ‘safe and legal’ routes are important, they do not meet the scale or urgency of the need. People will inevitably use informal routes, and they should not be penalised for doing so.