CHRISTIAN AID has called on the UK Government to urgently “identify safe, efficient payment channels” so that funding can quickly flow into Afghanistan to sustain humanitarian operations.  

The call coincides with new polling by Savanta, commissioned by the international development charity, which reveals over half,(53 per cent) of voters believe that the UK Government has an obligation to enable aid to get into Afghanistan for humanitarian work.

Last month, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned more than half the Afghan population – about 22.8 million people – face acute food insecurity this winter, while 3.2 million children under five could suffer acute malnutrition.

However, despite Afghanistan’s fragile economy relying on foreign aid, the UK and other western powers have frozen international funds, including assets Afghanistan could have accessed with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Subrata De, Christian Aid’s Country Manager for Afghanistan, explained “we’re doing all we can to distribute food and emergency supplies, but we cannot run humanitarian programmes well without a functional banking system.” He added: “The situation is desperate, people are without wages, and many are resorting to selling anything to buy food.”

The polling breakdown reveals

  • 53 per cent agree that the UK Government has an obligation to enable aid to get into Afghanistan for humanitarian work compared 19 per cent that disagree.
  • Those aged 18-34 are significantly more likely to agree: 61 per cent of this age group agree as opposed to just 10 per cent who disagree.
  • Looking at a geographical breakdown, the West Midlands (60 per cent) London (59 per cent) and Scotland (59 per cent) are the regions most likely to agree.
  • 2019 Conservative voters are less likely (40 per cent) to agree compared to all major parties – Labour (71 per cent), LibDem (61 per cent) and SNP (67 per cent).

Fionna Smyth, Head of Global Advocacy and Policy at Christian Aid, said: “Afghanistan is in crisis with millions on the verge of starvation. Reports that families are so desperate they have been forced to sell their children to buy food are utterly heartbreaking.

“Christian Aid, alongside partners, has been in Afghanistan for over thirty years. We continue to fight, but the banking system collapse has stripped back our ability to get aid to those in need.

“With winter now almost upon us, people in Afghanistan need hope. The UK Government has a moral duty to stop putting politics before people’s lives.

“The public are clear that the UK has an obligation to enable aid to get into Afghanistan for humanitarian work. Ministers must listen and urgently identify safe, efficient payment channels so funding can quickly flow into Afghanistan before it is too late to help.”

On the Foreign Secretary’s commitment to release £75 million in aid to Afghanistan – part of the £286 million the UK already pledged this year – Christian Aid Chief of UK Advocacy and Policy Jennifer Larbie added: “Afghanistan is in crisis and innocent people are on the verge of starvation. The UK Government must do better than this smoke and mirrors of reannouncing money already committed. Ministers have a moral duty to act and get aid flowing into Afghanistan now.”

* Source: Christian Aid