Afghanistan faces humanitarian crisis: Oxfam

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan needs urgent help to avert a humanitarian crisis this winter, with millions facing some of the worst conditions for more than 20 years, a leading British charity said on Saturday.

Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world with more than half of the population living below the poverty line and millions of Afghans facing constant food shortages.

About 1,000 people died in the last, exceptionally severe winter marked by bitter cold and heavy snowfall.

“This is a race against time, the international community needs to respond quickly before winter when conditions deteriorate,” Matt Waldman, the head of policy in Afghanistan for British charity Oxfam, said in a statement.

“If the response is slow or insufficient, people could be forced to sell assets or leave their homes and villages, and there could be a further deterioration of stability,” he said.

Oxfam said Dai Kundi province in central Afghanistan may be facing the worst conditions in more than 20 years, and similar conditions could be found in other provinces.

Many areas in Afghanistan are virtually inaccessible in winter because of snow, poor roads and worsening security, hindering the delivery of aid and food.

In a letter to international development ministers around the world, Oxfam has called for a “major humanitarian response” after a poor take-up of its appeal in July for $404 million.

While Britain, the United States, Canada and the European Commission have already committed funds, many more have yet to contribute to the appeal which has reached only one fifth of target, said Oxfam.

Staff shortages mean there are also not enough people to organise and coordinate the required aid effort, Oxfam said.

Afghanistan relies heavily on international aid with around 90 percent of its spending coming from foreign donors. Drought, rising food prices as well as spreading insecurity have all contributed to a worsening humanitarian situation in the war-torn country.

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