THE HAGUE — An intensification and spread of violence threatens to push parts of Afghanistan towards a serious humanitarian situation, international aid agency Oxfam warned today. Already 8.5 million Afghans are chronically vulnerable and a deterioration in conditions could lead to food shortages and jeopardize their long term health and welfare, Oxfam said.
Oxfam called upon world leaders, meeting in the Netherlands today, to provide more money immediately for humanitarian relief, to radically overhaul the way they give aid to the country, and to prioritize the protection of civilians. The humanitarian emergency appeal launched last year is still less than 50 percent funded.
The health of over a million young children and half a million women is at serious risk due to malnutrition but a humanitarian rescue package is only 42 percent funded, with key sectors such as health and education less than 2 percent funded.
The agency also asked the international community to follow long-term strategies, which put the needs and wellbeing of Afghan civilians first.
Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America, said: "Today ministers will spend hours debating security and counter-terrorism, but the conflict is only part of the problem. The living conditions of many Afghans are deteriorating.
"Stability and prosperity will only occur if there are immediate efforts to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans. So far, the results have been inadequate.
"The response to the ongoing humanitarian situation has been slow, fragmented and insufficient. Aid has been ineffective, with too much money spent on foreign contractors or on projects that don't benefit the most vulnerable Afghans.
"If this international conference is to avert a crisis and create a workable solution, it must start by putting the future of the Afghans at the center of its agenda."
More money must go to agriculture and rural development to deal with the long-term causes of the current food crisis. For example, in Daikundi province, where half-a-million people are dependent on agriculture, the Afghan Department of Agriculture in 2007 had a budget of only $2,400 to improve farming in the area.
Offenheiser said: "Most Afghans depend on agriculture to feed their families or to make a living, but only a tiny fraction of international aid supports farming. More aid to agriculture will make Afghanistan less vulnerable to future food shortages and provide real alternatives to opium poppy cultivation."
There should also be a national strategy for ground-level peace-building and conflict resolution to make daily life safer for Afghans, Oxfam said. Peace processes must be developed at all levels, from the local and national right through to the regional.