Aid groups need $550 mln to confront worsening Afghan crisis: UN

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ISLAMABAD, Jan 19 (APP): International aid groups need more than half a
billion dollars this year to help millions of Afghans struggling with increased violence and a bleak economy as humanitarian crisis worsens, a senior UN official said.
According to New York Times, the United Nations estimates at least 9.3
million Afghans, or nearly a third of the population, will need humanitarian assistance in 2017, a 13 percent increase from last year.
Officials expect hundreds of thousands of refugees to return from
Pakistan and Iran this year, even as an average of 1,500 people are newly displaced by fighting every day, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, Mark Bowden said.
“The majority of people returning are very poor … and have lost a lot,”
he said on Wednesday in an interview with Reuters at his office in Kabul.
An increasing number of people in Afghanistan are facing prolonged
displacement, Bowden said, creating more challenges for the government, which is already struggling to provide basic services while battling a stubborn insurgency waged by the Taliban and other militant groups.
The 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan, set to be launched by the United
Nations and other organizations on Saturday, calls for $550 million to help about 5.7 mln of the most vulnerable people.
Such funding requests routinely only meet a fraction of the target, with
$197 mln received for last year’s annual request of $339 mln. An additional emergency appeal last year for $152 mln to help more than a million refugees returning from Pakistan and Iran, as well as people newly displaced by fighting, raised just over $91 mln.
“The major impact is that we’re not able to address the needs of displaced people as adequately as we want,” Bowden said.
Afghanistan remains heavily dependent on foreign aid, and the prolonged
conflict has kept most private investment away, with disastrous effects for the economy, he said.
Prior to the US-led international military force withdrawing most of
its troops in 2014, officials had been predicting that gross domestic product would grow by as much as 12 percent per year, reducing the need for humanitarian aid, Bowden said.
Instead, the conflict has worsened and annual GDP growth hovers around 1
percent, undermining efforts to wean the country’s “distorted economy” off foreign aid, he said.