|© UNICEF video|
|Former UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan Bernt Aasen says Afghan children face ‘an emergency within an emergency,’ suffering from the effects of both war and drought.|
By Chris Niles
New York, 8 November 2006 – UNICEF has issued an urgent appeal for help for the children of Afghanistan, who are suffering from the double tragedy of war and drought.
“We’re trying to deal with an emergency within an emergency,” said Bernt Aasen, who has just finished a two-year tour as UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan.
Following a poor response to its most recent appeal to help 2.5 million drought-stricken Afghan children, UNICEF has issued a new appeal for $3.8 million, warning that lack of water and food will exacerbate disease and malnutrition amongst the young.
“The purpose of this appeal is twofold,” said Mr. Aasen. “One [part] is to give emergency attendance to the families that have been caught in the drought – and there are several areas in the country which have not had any rains this year – and the other part of the appeal is to attend to 20,000 families that have been displaced in the south due to the fighting.”
Aid for vulnerable families
Forced to leave virtually everything behind, the displaced families now need shelter, food and other basic assistance.
“We have to defend the achievements that we have made with the Afghans over the last four to five years. And at the same time we need to attend to these new vulnerable people, particularly women and children,” said Mr. Aasen.
Military operations in southern Afghanistan are impeding humanitarian work and making it much more dangerous and expensive to get help to those in need. Many roads are destroyed and other infrastructure damaged or abandoned.
Working with UN partners
NATO reports that bomb and suicide attacks have killed more than 700 Afghan civilians this year, and schools are increasingly a target. UNICEF estimates that up to 400,000 students are not being educated because their schools are closed.
“In many areas, the government has given up,” Mr. Aasen said, adding that UNICEF hopes increased diplomatic activity will spur the international community to help Afghanistan. A UN Security Council mission is visiting the country this month, and the situation will be the focus of an upcoming NATO summit.
“It’s very important that UNICEF is working with the other UN agencies,” noted Mr. Aasen. “We want to make an important contribution from the whole UN family.”