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Top UN officials urge more support for Afghanistan to tackle challenges
After four decades of conflict and insecurity, Afghanistan needs more support than ever to tackle its challenges, United Nations humanitarian affairs chiefs said on Monday, following a joint two-day visit to the country.
UN Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi were speaking to the press in Geneva, ahead of a major international conference on Afghanistan due to be held in November.
The world needs to pay a bit more attention again to Afghanistan to help them through this challenging period, said Lowcock, adding that it's possible that a year from now they could be back on a positive trajectory if they get the right engagement and help.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), nearly 4.2 million people in Afghanistan are in acute need of humanitarian assistance, including 1.9 million internally displaced by conflict, and more than 60,000 refugees who have returned home and need help to restart their lives.
In addition, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) highlights that, outside the country, 2.6 million registered Afghan refugees are hosted by Pakistan and Iran, along with an even larger number of undocumented Afghans.
Grandi said that ongoing insecurity, including terrorist attacks and growing criminality, has a very negative impact as it continues to produce internal displacement and has caused a sharp decline in the number of people going back to Afghanistan. He explained that the number heading home around the same time last year reached 40,000 to 50,000; whereas this year it has fallen to around 12,000.
To make things worse, the country is facing a massive drought that is affecting 70 percent of its territory, and putting 1.3 million women, children and men at risk.
As the country is gearing up for parliamentary and presidential elections in the coming months, Lowcock commended the good efforts made by the Afghan government to address issues preventing returns and reintegration such as a lack of available land. He also applauded bilateral agreements with other countries hosting Afghan refugees, such as Pakistan and Iran.
The two UN officials called on the world community to support Afghanistan in its path to peace, political stability and economic recovery. They also stressed that the international backing of the government's policies and strategies is required for their effective implementation.
Lowcock described the international conference, to be co-hosted by the UN and the Afghan government in Geneva on November 27-28, as an important opportunity to reaffirm international commitments to peace, stability, development and progress in Afghanistan.
Source: International Islamic News Agency