By: Monitoring Desk
KABUL: Afghanistan has risen to second on the UK’s International Rescue Committee’s annual Emergency Watchlist due to a triple threat of conflict, COVID-19 and climate change.
In its latest report, issued on Tuesday, IRC said the number of people in need for 2021 nearly doubled compared to early 2020, and Afghanistan rose from sixth to second on the IRC’s Emergency Watchlist.
According to the IRC, as peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban fail to make progress, Afghans remain under continued threat of violence, with many fleeing their homes in search of safety. Amid this volatility, women and girls are also at greater risk of experiencing violence within their own homes.
“When Afghans cannot provide for their family, we see a surge in violence against the most vulnerable family members,” says Vicki Aken, country director for the IRC in Afghanistan. “This forces many families, including children, to risk their lives in desperate attempts to leave Afghanistan and seek safer, better lives elsewhere. A peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict is the only sustainable solution to meeting chronic need in Afghanistan.”
The IRC stated that among the reasons Afghanistan is one of the countries most at risk of humanitarian catastrophe in 2021 is because of political uncertainty which “is likely to drive conflict between the Taliban and Afghan government forces”. The organization stated that fighting in late 2020 alone forced 35,000 people from their homes and could indicate a larger escalation in conflict yet to come.
The report also found that ongoing conflict makes it difficult for many Afghans to access health care. In line with this, ongoing conflict also forced 38 health facilities to close in 2020, making it difficult for many Afghans to receive lifesaving care during the COVID-19 pandemic, and preventing aid workers from meeting increased humanitarian needs.
COVID-19 has also pushed Afghans into poverty, making food insecurity likely to continue to grow in 2021, the IRC reported adding that as the pandemic continues, an additional six million Afghans are at risk of poverty and 42 percent are expected to face crisis levels of food insecurity.
The IRC also stated that reports of early marriages and violence against women have increased in the wake of ongoing conflict and women continue to be targeted by armed groups.
In addition to this, increasing natural disasters are uprooting families and driving greater humanitarian needs.
The organization reported that natural disasters and extreme weather conditions continue to plague Afghanistan, partly due to climate change. “In fact, the country is ranked one of the top 10 most vulnerable to climate change across the globe,” the report stated.
Over one million people remain displaced due to natural disasters and around half of the districts in Afghanistan experienced a natural disaster in 2020, affecting over 110,000 people, read the report.
“Impending drought this year threatens much of the country, posing further displacement and widespread hunger. Already, 42 percent of the population is experiencing food insecurity, and this will increase as the drought takes hold,” read the report.
The International Rescue Committee has been working in Afghanistan since 1988, reaching over one million people each year with emergency aid and recovery programs.
The annual Emergency Watchlist is a global list of humanitarian crises the IRC expects to significantly deteriorate over the course of the coming year.