WHO, UNICEF Struggle To Deliver Aid Amidst Airport Blockage In Kabul

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The lifesaving supplies distributed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to partners and hospitals in Afghanistan are rapidly dwindling following the Taliban takeover of the country. The world health body has said that it currently has only enough supplies to meet urgent needs for up to one-and-a-half weeks.

WHO along with UNICEF, released a joint statement and called for assistance to help with aid delivery as the situation at the Kabul airport continues to remain chaotic, with thousands trying to flee the country.

“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,” the statement said.

Most planes flying into the country to evacuate personnel have been arriving empty, missing crucial opportunities to bring in humanitarian aid. Over 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. 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. 

Relief work continues

Millions of people in Afghanistan need medicines and other lifesaving supplies. An estimated 300,000 people were displaced in the last two months alone, according to United Nations (UN) estimates.

The UN bodies WHO and UNICEF said that they prioritized the safety and security of their staff in the first few days of recent hostilities but their work continued. They said they have rapidly shifted gears to address the needs of millions of Afghans who remain in the country.

“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,” the statement said.

Conflict amidst pandemic – a desperate situation

WHO operates roughly half a dozen offices in Afghanistan and UNICEF around a dozen. Both work with local implementing partners. 

Apart from delivering services such as ready to use therapeutic food to starving children and mobile health clinics for urgent medical care, UNICEF is also delivering water to those most affected by the drought. Vaccinations for babies and young children are also on. Security situation in Afghanistan deteriorated rapidly over the past few weeks and there is uncertainty over what Taliban rule might mean for the country despite assurances of stability from the Taliban leadership.

“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,” they added.

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