Internally displaced Afghan families visit a health office in Kabul, Afghanistan, on September 14, 2021 | Photo: EPA
Internally displaced Afghan families visit a health office in Kabul, Afghanistan, on September 14, 2021 | Photo: EPA

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi visited Afghanistan this week, where he called for support to both Afghans in the country and Afghan refugees who have fled abroad.

In ending a three-day visit to Afghanistan on Wednesday (September 15), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called for urgent and long-term support for Afghans in the country and those who have fled abroad as refugees.

"The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan remains desperate," said Grandi in a statement issued by the UN agency. He said that "prior to the events that unfolded over the past few weeks, more than 18 million Afghans required urgent humanitarian assistance."

In a tweet, the commissioner said that "relief convoys continue to arrive in Afghanistan and aid is being distributed." He said that he had asked the Taliban "to ensure the security of humanitarian operations."

During his visit to Kabul, Grandi met with the interim Afghan government, as well as some UN and NGO staff that have stayed on the ground and maintained operations.

Worry about humanitarian crisis

Grandi said that he had discussed "critical issues like ensuring that women staff can return safely to work, the importance of education for all Afghan children, and the safety and security of all Afghans, including minorities" with the ministers. He said that he had "encouraged the interim government to reiterate these important commitments publicly, and to ensure that they are upheld in practice."

He called on the international community to engage with Afghanistan "in order to prevent a much bigger humanitarian crisis that would have not only regional, but global implications." He expressed worry that "if public services and the economy collapse, we will see even greater suffering, instability, and displacement both within and outside the country."

More aid for refugees in Pakistan, Iran

UNHCR also called for more support for displaced Afghans in the country and abroad.

There are currently over 3.5 million Afghans who have been internally displaced -- who had to flee their homes due to conflicts but remain inside the country, according to UNHCR. Among them are some 630,000 people who were displaced this year.

There are also some 2.6 million Afghans living abroad with official refugee status -- some 2.2 million of them in neighboring countries Iran and Pakistan, according to UNHCR data. There are also hundreds of thousands of Afghans who have left their home country but have not received official refugee status.

Many observers worry that the Taliban takeover could lead to a large number of Afghans fleeing the country. Because of this, Grandi and the UNHCR called for more aid for host countries and more resettlements of Afghan refugees.

"While the current situation in Afghanistan has so far not prompted a large refugee exodus, UNHCR is continuing its appeal to donors to scale up support for millions of Afghan refugees already being hosted in Pakistan and Iran, and for those who may need to seek international protection in future," their statement said. "The international community needs to do more to provide humanitarian and development support to these refugees and their host communities, and to scale up the resettlement of Afghans already in those countries."

 

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