Oxfam warns of devastating impact for Afghan civilians if violence intensifies

Published: 31st March 2009

An intensification and spread of violence threatens to push parts of Afghanistan towards a serious humanitarian situation, international aid agency Oxfam warned today. Already 8.5m Afghans are chronically vulnerable and a deterioration in conditions could lead to food shortages and jeopardise their long term health and welfare, Oxfam International 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 prioritise the protection of civilians. The humanitarian emergency appeal launched last year is still less than 50% 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% funded, with key sectors such as health and education less than 2% funded.   The agency also asked the international community to follow long-term strategies which put the needs and wellbeing of Afghan civilians first. Farah Karimi, Executive Director, Oxfam Novib, who is attending the conference, 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, or not improving quickly enough. “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 which don’t benefit the most vulnerable Afghans. “If this international conference is to have an effect it must put the future of the Afghans at the centre 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 Department of Agriculture in 2007 had a budget of only $2,400 to improve farming in the area. Karimi said: “Most Afghans depend on agriculture to feed their families or to make a living but it receives only a tiny fraction of international aid. 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.Photo gallery: Unheard voices from Afghan women and their children 

Aid has been ineffective, with too much money spent on foreign contractors or on projects which don’t benefit the most vulnerable Afghans.
Farah Karimi
Executive Director, Oxfam Novib

Notes to editors

Oxfam said governments meeting in the Netherlands must continue supporting Afghanistan with aid, but should:

  • Make sure aid projects are better coordinated and meet people’s needs
  • Channel less aid through private contractors and the international security forces
  •  Press the Afghan government to take action against corruption

The Humanitarian Action Plan is only 42% funded, with key areas such as health and education less than 2% funded. Governments and other donors meeting today should commit resources to this plan. Crucial sectors from the emergency appeal total - now at $648 million – are underfunded or not at all.