Amidst Kabul airport blockage, WHO and UNICEF call for assistance to deliver critical health supplies to Afghanistan

Joint statement by WHO Regional Director for Eastern and Mediterranean Region, Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, and UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia, George Laryea-Adjei

22 August 2021
Afghanistan. A boy holds a small child.
UNICEF/UN0498793/UNICEF Afghanistan

KABUL/CAIRO/KATHMANDU, 22 August 2021 - “As humanitarian needs in Afghanistan increase, the abilities to respond to those needs are rapidly declining. WHO and UNICEF call for immediate and unimpeded access to deliver medicines and other lifesaving supplies to millions of people in need of aid, including 300,000 people displaced in the last two months alone. 

“While the main focus over the past days has been major air operations for the evacuation of internationals and vulnerable Afghans, the massive humanitarian needs facing the majority of the population should not - and cannot – be neglected. Even prior to the events of the past weeks, Afghanistan represented the world’s third-largest humanitarian operation, with over 18 million people requiring assistance.

“WHO and UNICEF are committed to stay and deliver for the people of Afghanistan.

“However, with no commercial aircraft currently permitted to land in Kabul, we have no way to get supplies into the country and to those in need.  Other humanitarian agencies are similarly constrained.

“WHO and UNICEF call for the immediate establishment of a humanitarian airbridge for the sustained and unimpeded delivery of aid into Afghanistan.  We are also closely following up with all UN and international partners to explore options for expediting aid shipments. 

“In the first few days of the recent hostilities, both WHO and UNICEF — like all other UN agencies — prioritized the safety and security of our staff. But our work continued even when the hostilities were at their worst.  We remain committed to staying in Afghanistan and delivering, and we rapidly shifted gears to address the needs of millions of Afghans who remain in the country. 

“Conflict, displacement, drought and the COVID-19 pandemic are all contributing to a complex and desperate situation in Afghanistan.  Humanitarian agencies need to be supported and facilitated to meet the enormous and growing needs in Afghanistan, and make sure that no one dies unnecessarily due to lack of access to aid.”

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Notes to editors: 

About WHO’s work in Afghanistan

In the past week, WHO distributed lifesaving supplies to partners and hospitals from its stocks in-country. But supplies are rapidly dwindling, and WHO currently only has enough to meet urgent needs for up to one and a half weeks.  Most planes flying into the country to evacuate personnel have been arriving empty, missing crucial opportunities to bring in urgently needed health supplies and other humanitarian aid. More than 500 metric tonnes of WHO supplies, scheduled to be transported over three flights to Afghanistan this week and next week, remain in WHO’s logistics hub in Dubai’s International Humanitarian City. These include trauma medicines, essential medicines and medical supplies, pneumonia medicines, supplies for the management of severe acute malnutrition, and supplies for the management of chronic diseases. WHO operates through 8 offices in Afghanistan and works with local implementing partners to provide urgently needed health care for all. As the Health Cluster lead WHO also ensures that partners continue delivering a coordinated response in all corners of the country.

About UNICEF’s work in Afghanistan

UNICEF has 13 offices in Afghanistan and a range of partners that support us in delivering lifesaving supplies to the most disadvantaged. To support the about 10 million children, and their families, affected by the humanitarian crisis, UNICEF is currently delivering life-saving services such as ready to use therapeutic food to nourish starving children and mobile health clinics to give urgent medical care. UNICEF is also delivering water to those most affected by the drought, including in camps for internally displaced people. Despite the ongoing humanitarian crisis, UNICEF is distributing hygiene kits and continuing vaccination for babies and young children. UNICEF is also expanding its humanitarian response in the country by prepositioning supplies. In the past week, in several of the new camps for internally displaced people in Kabul, UNICEF established child-friendly spaces, nutrition hubs, and vaccination sites.  

Media contacts

Joe English
UNICEF New York
Tel: +1 917 893 0692
Samantha Mort
UNICEF Afghanistan
Tel: +93 79 998 7110

Multimedia content

Afghanistan. Internally displaced Afghan families walk past tents in Kabul.

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