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UNHCR providing lifesaving assistance

We invited Caroline Van Buren , Representative to Afghanistan for UNHCR, to tell us how her colleagues are responding to the crisis.

Australia for UNHCR is the UN Refugee Agency’s national partner in Australia, raising awareness and funds to support UNHCR’s global emergency response to humanitarian crises. The organisation is raising much needed funds for Afghanistan; delivering aid and protection to many of the country’s 3.5 million internally displaced people.

What is the situation in Kabul at the moment and how are you and your staff feeling?

Currently, the situation is relatively calm. Skirmishes continue in some areas, and we still hear some sporadic gunfire, but less than in the first couple of days. The situation is slowly going back to some kind of normality. We don’t know what the future holds, what’s going to happen. We’re taking it day-by-day and hoping for the best.

Given the security situation, to what extent are you able to provide assistance at the moment?

The situation is changing all the time, and we have to be cautious, not just for UNHCR and our staff, but also for our partners. We work with a lot of partners throughout the country. Most of them are national NGOs and they have more access than we do in certain areas.

We are doing the emergency response for people who have been displaced, who need lifesaving assistance immediately; people who ran away from their homes with absolutely nothing.

What are the most urgent needs right now?

Definitely food, but also shelter, water, sanitation, and core relief items like plastic sheets, buckets, blankets and gas cylinders for cooking. Also, dignity kits for women and hygiene kits. Basic relief items that people need when they run away from home without being able to take anything.

When you’re going out to do those distributions, how are you ensuring the safety of staff and partners?

The Taliban is encouraging us to resume our activities; they’re saying that they’ll provide the necessary security. So, for now, in most areas we are resuming our work, but we must have the greenlight from the Taliban to do so.

What can be done to help Afghans in need right now?

The first thing that we’re asking is for countries to keep their borders open so that Afghans who want to leave and seek international protection can do so.

The second thing we’d like to ask is support for people who are internally displaced – lifesaving assistance for those who had to leave their homes.

And then we also need support for “regular programming” as we call it – restoring the lives and livelihoods of people who are returning home; rehabilitation and construction of damaged infrastructure; ensuring people have livelihoods.

I hope that the focus on Afghanistan will continue and that it will not go away after a few weeks. UNHCR is here for the long run.

Find out more about Australia for UNHCR.

If you are interested in donating to organisations (including this one) working to support the many people of Afghanistan who have been impacted by the current situation, you can use our guide Afghanistan: How you can help on our website as a springboard.

This organisation is supported by trusts managed by Equity Trustees.