Oxfam to President Obama: New strategy must avert a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan

Published: 31st January 2009

Washington, DC – President Obama has the opportunity to chart a new course for US policy in Afghanistan by taking the urgent steps needed to reverse the slide into a major humanitarian crisis, international aid agency Oxfam said today.Up to five million Afghans are struggling to meet their immediate needs, and the health of over a million young children and half a million women are at serious risk due to malnutrition, yet the United Nations emergency appeal to feed Afghans is only half-funded.Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America said: "With spreading insecurity, and civilians facing critical needs, the United States must take a leading role in protecting civilians and forging a new international approach to Afghanistan."In a memo sent to President Obama, in addition to humanitarian needs, Oxfam raised concerns that events have reached a critical juncture in Afghanistan and that conditions could deteriorate further unless the United States takes a lead in addressing failures in governance, aid and reconstruction, and protecting civilians. In the memo, Oxfam America outlined ten essential steps to change the course in Afghanistan.In 2008, security conditions reached their worst levels since the intervention in 2001. Civilian casualties caused by all side have continued to increase, with over 2,000 civilian deaths over the past year, including nearly 800 from operations by international and Afghan government forces. Half of the country cannot be accessed by the United Nations and attacks on aid workers continue to increase, hampering the delivery of development and humanitarian assistance.Matt Waldman, Oxfam International's head of policy in Afghanistan, said: "The only way address the worsening conditions for civilians and stem the tide of violence, is a concerted international effort, which prioritizes the safety and livelihoods of Afghan communities."Oxfam's memo to President Obama outlines a plan for a better humanitarian response to the crisis, major improvements in aid effectiveness, increased support for agriculture and the rural economy, action on peace-building, regional cooperation, governance reform, and new measures to protect civilians.

The United States must take a leading role in protecting civilians and forging a new international approach to Afghanistan.
Raymond C. Offenheiser
President of Oxfam America

Notes to editors

  • One of the poorest countries in the world, life expectancy in Afghanistan is just 45 years and one in every five Afghan child dies before the age of five.
  • Oxfam has worked in Afghanistan for over 20 years, running rural aid programs and supporting partner organizations.
  • In July 2008 the United Nations launched its Joint Emergency Appeal for Afghanistan, asking for $404m. As of Jan 31 '09 the fund stands at $201m.