Aid charities have issued a plea to G20 leaders meeting in Rome this weekend, including Boris Johnson, to allow funding for humanitarian work into Afghanistan, where more than half the population are facing the danger of famine.
Some 16 charities backed a joint letter warning that the impacts of drought and conflict have been compounded by a collapse in the country’s banking system, after western powers including the UK froze international assets in the wake of this summer’s Taliban takeover.
They called on the G20 to establish “safe, efficient payment channels” to allow the flow of funds for aid work including the distribution of food and emergency supplies.
Christian Aid chief executive Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, who was among the signatories, called on world leaders to “stop playing politics with people’s lives”.
A report for the UN earlier this week warned that around 22.8m Afghans will face crisis or emergency levels of food security between November and March, requiring an urgent international response to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.
The report revealed a 37 per cent surge in acute hunger since April, leaving the country with the highest level of food insecurity recorded by the UN in 10 years of reports on Afghanistan.
Among those at risk were 3.2m children under five, who are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by the end of the year.
The charity letter – also signed by Cafod, Care International, AfghanAid and International Rescue Committee UK – warned: “As Afghanistan’s harsh winter rapidly approaches, food and fuel prices are rocketing and people either simply can’t afford to buy essential supplies or have virtually no access to the money needed to buy them.
“The situation is so desperate that many Afghans have sold their final possessions and some are resorting to desperate coping strategies such as child marriage.
“NGOs have worked in Afghanistan for decades, including during the previous Taliban government. Our teams know how to ensure that aid gets directly to those who need it most. Without a functioning economy and banking system we remain restricted in what we can do.
“Urgent international leadership is required. G20 members must act now to ensure cash is allowed back into Afghanistan via the banking system – inaction is punishing the Afghan people for the actions of the Taliban.”
Subrata De, Christian Aid’s country manager for Afghanistan, said: “We’re doing all we can to distribute food and emergency supplies, but we cannot run humanitarian programmes well without a functional banking system.
“The situation is desperate, people are without wages, and many are resorting to selling anything to buy food.”
Ms Mukwashi appealed for action from the G20 leaders, who represent the world’s largest economies and include the UK, US, Russia, China, France and Germany.
“Christian Aid, alongside partners, has been working in Afghanistan for over 30 years,” she said. “We continue to fight, but the banking system collapse is turning the lights off on what little hope there is.
“Every minute G20 members wait to act is another innocent life threatened. People would expect urgent action to ensure cash is allowed back into Afghanistan via the banking system.
“World leaders must stop playing politics with people’s lives. Millions will be at risk if they don’t.”