Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 13, 2021
Thank you, Secretary-General Guterres, for convening this meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Afghanistan.
As we all have heard in detail, the situation is dire. UNICEF predicts that one million children under the age of five may soon face severe acute malnutrition. One million! One child dying of preventable hunger is too many. One million is unthinkable. One child dying of preventable hunger – I repeat again – is too many. Even before the recent transition, over 18 million people – almost half the population of Afghanistan – were in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. Now, at this moment where assistance is even harder to come by, and women and girls are under particular threat, the need is even greater still.
Let me state unequivocally that the United States is committed to providing humanitarian assistance and supporting the Afghan people. So today, I am proud to announce that the United States is providing nearly $64 million in new humanitarian assistance. This new funding will support the work of the United Nations, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and World Health Organization, as well as international NGO actors. This funding will help provide lifesaving food assistance. It will meet critical health and nutrition needs. It will address the protection concerns of women, children, and people who belong to ethnic, minority and other religious groups. And it will help more children – including girls – go back to school. And it will provide clean, potable water. This additional funding means the United States has provided nearly $330 million in assistance to Afghans in this fiscal year. And we are continuing to assess needs on the ground and plan to provide additional assistance for Afghans in the coming months.
Today, we urge other countries to show solidarity. The Afghan people need our support for the consolidated Flash Appeal and the Humanitarian Response Plan announced today. A drought is taking hold of the nation and a harsh winter approaches. Supplies must be moved to where they are needed now. Millions of Afghans are relying on our support to survive.
Of course, given the transition taking place in the country, this funding alone is not enough to support the Afghan people and the efforts of the UN and our NGO partners. We need safe passage and the freedom of movement. We need access by air and on the ground. We need cooperation from neighboring countries, to ensure the border remains open to commercial traffic. And we need to surge experienced aid workers to facilitate this lifesaving aid. We need oral and written commitments made by the Taliban about operating rights of humanitarian agencies and the treatment and rights of minority groups, women, and girls to be upheld. Words are not good enough. We must see action. The international community is unified in this message – humanitarian aid agencies cannot do their job if the Taliban does not uphold those core commitments and humanitarian principals.
Finally, as we do this important work, we need to ensure humanitarian principles and norms are respected and protected. We cannot compromise on these values. That means all aid operations need to be independently monitored, reported on, and secure. And it means the international community needs to come together to ensure that both foreign and Afghan aid workers – neutral actors just trying to save lives – are able to do their jobs.
We have all heard the reports that the Taliban are obstructing and interfering in aid delivery and protection efforts, prohibiting female staff from saving lives, and even exacting retribution against people benefiting from aid or providing it. That is frightening and unacceptable, and, frankly, destabilizing to Afghanistan and to the region. It cannot continue. Humanitarian workers represent the best of us. They deserve our protection. And they should be allowed to do their life saving work safely and securely – without exception. Let me take this moment for the United States to thank them for their commitment and for their service.
This is a moment for the international community to unite. Let us commit today to meeting this urgent appeal for financial support. Commit to standing by humanitarian workers as they do their all-important work, and to stepping up humanitarian action in Afghanistan so that we can save the lives of Afghans in need.
Thank you very much.