Humanitarian actors need urgent funding to aid Afghans, says UN official

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17 February - A senior United Nations official today appealed for support for a nearly $900 million plan to assist Afghanistan's most vulnerable communities who have been affected by natural disasters and conflict, as well as to support longer-term development and reconstruction.

Known as the Humanitarian Action Plan (HAP) 2010, the $870.5 million appeal covers areas such as health, nutrition, and water and sanitation, among others. It aims to improve the coordination of humanitarian programming and activities by identifying, prioritizing and addressing the most acute needs in Afghanistan.

The UN Deputy Special Representative in Afghanistan noted that the country ranks 181 out of 182 countries listed on the UN Human Development Index and suffers from chronic poverty.

“One effect of this underdevelopment is that national institutions do not have the capacity or necessary resources to support the humanitarian needs of the affected population,” Robert Watkins told a news conference in Kabul.

“The HAP sets out to address this institutional gap and to mitigate the effects of hazards and conflict for the protection of the most vulnerable populations.”

Mr. Watkins, who is also UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan, pointed out that the country needs long-term development and many donors support recovery and reconstruction efforts.

However, the impact is often undermined by emergency situations, such as natural disasters and conflict, as highlighted by the recent avalanche in the Salang Pass which resulted in the loss of many lives and the continued fighting in the southern Helmand province.

So far, over 1,400 families displaced by the conflict in Helmand have been registered by the UN and partner non-governmental organizations (NGOs), of which 675 have received assistance. A number of UN agencies in the area, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) are providing food, health care and other aid.

“The HAP sets out to ensure that humanitarian programming complements and strengthens the link to early recovery and development,” said Mr. Watkins.

Another goal of the 2010 Action Plan, he added, is to improve coordination of humanitarian efforts by ensuring that all humanitarian actors in Afghanistan are focused on the same objectives and working together.