‘We cannot turn our backs on Afghanistan’s future’: Resident Coordinator’s Blog |
“Shortly before the Taliban took over in 2021, I visited an orphanage in Kunduz, a town in northern Afghanistan. I was heartbroken when I spoke with a young girl who had lost her entire family the day before, following intense fighting between the Afghan National Security Forces and the Taliban.
Although she was safe from immediate danger, had access to food, shelter and other vital necessities thanks to the support of our United Nations team on the ground, I knew that her needs and those other vulnerable children across Afghanistan were far more important, and the issues facing their communities are more complex.
Since then, these challenges have increased exponentially and our efforts to build a stable future for children like those I met last year in Kunduz have become more demanding. From hunger to chronic poverty, the scale of suffering in Afghanistan continues to grow in many areas since the Taliban advance on Kabul last summer.
More than half of the country’s population now lives below the poverty line. Nearly 23 million people are food insecure, many of them seriously affected, and more than two million children suffer from malnutrition. In June 2022, a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck the central region of Afghanistan, killing more than 1,000 people and pushing already vulnerable communities to the brink.
Women “relegated to the margins”
I am particularly worried about Afghan women and girls, whose life has changed unrecognizably since the Taliban returned to power last summer. Since August 15, 2021, we have seen a significant rollback of their economic, political and social rights and a worrying escalation of restrictive gender policies and behaviors. Without the right to education, work and freedom of movement, women now find themselves increasingly relegated to the margins.
As these developments began to unfold last year, our United Nations team is committed to staying and serving the people of Afghanistan. Under the auspices of the UN Transitional Engagement Framework for Afghanistan, the overarching strategic planning document that guides the work of our UN team on the ground, we have been able to save lives while maintaining essential services and preserving key community systems.
In the first six months of this year alone, we have helped 94% of the 24.4 million people in need with some form of humanitarian assistance. Vulnerable households received life-saving, life-saving food assistance – from emergency rations, to seasonal support, agricultural supplies and nutritional supplements – to health care, emergency shelter and non-food items, hygiene and help with protection.
decades of neglect
Yet, despite our unprecedented response, the needs in Afghanistan remain enormous. Rates of food insecurity, poverty and debt have soared since the Taliban returned to power last summer, even though the roots of these problems existed long before August 15, 2021 after decades of neglect and neglect. underdevelopment of key public services and infrastructure.
Without access to these services, including strong health care, a functioning banking system and a resilient agricultural sector, the lives of ordinary Afghans will continue to hang in the balance. The people of Afghanistan deserve serious commitment and sustained investment in their future, This is why, one year after the Taliban took power, we are redoubling our efforts to strengthen the fundamental pillars of Afghan society, starting with its economy.
Guided by the goals set out in our Transitional Engagement Framework, we will focus on reviving the economy from the bottom up, expanding women’s economic participation, and creating more than two million new jobs. With more sustainable sources of income, families will be better equipped to break out of endless cycles of hunger and slowly reduce their dependence on humanitarian assistance.
The full return of women to the labor market is key to transforming the Afghan economythat’s why we work hard to support women-led businesses and expand employment opportunities for women across the country.
Focus on agricultural economics
Given that the majority of Afghans live in rural areas, we must pay particular attention to sustaining the agricultural economy by strengthening agri-food systems and developing stronger links between farmers, food producers and local markets.
Our UN team is already implementing these approaches in rural areas across Afghanistan, including some of the areas affected by recent earthquakes. While visiting this area of southeastern Afghanistan earlier this month, one of the young men I met handed me a handwritten note that listed his village’s immediate demands: clean water, homes, education , health, roads and jobs. The message at the UN was clear: support us with these simple requests now and we can better support each other in the face of the uncertainties of the future.
As we move forward, we will continue to work to improve the lives of Afghans, including women and girls. When the Taliban returned to power last summer, we quickly scaled up the delivery of essential health, education and protection services to women and girls. We have expanded this support in recent months, opening new female-friendly health spaces in Kabul for increased access to psychological support; strengthen mobile health teams to reach more vulnerable women and children affected by earthquakes and roll out more training programs for displaced and returnee women through our empowerment centers.
Whatever uncertainties lie ahead, we will put the needs of women and girls at the center of our recovery efforts and work every day to get them back to work, back to school and can reclaim their right to live freely. and equal lives.
Looking back on this day last year, I am proud of the support our United Nations team provided to the people of Afghanistan and the efforts we made to prevent some of the worst-case scenarios we feared from happening.
Deeply moved and motivated by the realities on the ground, I look to the challenges ahead and reiterate our mission to ensure that every person in Afghanistan, including children like Kunduz’s daughter, can plan for and have a dignified future, well within beyond the struggle for survival today.