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LONDON: The world must act now to tackle the growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, England’s children’s commissioner has said.
Responding to reports from Sky News of children locked up in prisons for ‘stealing bikes’, growing hunger and the sale of young children and organs, Dame Rachel de Souza echoed calls from politicians to help those in need through a “pledge conference”.
She told Sky News: “An international conference is the least we can do. This requires major action. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see these reports, but we must not turn away, and I think this is one of those situations where everyone – all of us – every government, internationally, needs to act to support these children.
She added: “Thinking about these kids in the middle of winter…and the stories of selling young girls is just awful and we really need to act.” We cannot in 2022 have children who are going through this.
Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was one of the strongest supporters of a donors’ conference to raise $4.4 billion in funds to avert the mass starvation and death of Afghan children.
He said the money “must come now or Afghans will conclude that the West will never help them – even when they need it most.”
Afghanistan is “now an almost forgotten land – and our eyes have been averted as the greatest humanitarian catastrophe on the planet unfolds and people die, many of them freezing to death”, he wrote in the DailyMirror.
“The aid we urgently need to pay for food, health care and schooling for girls is not coming in the amounts needed.”
Mark Lowcock, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said: “The vast majority of the population is starving and that is why people are resorting to these extreme measures.
“It is not at all appropriate to impose some kind of collective punishment on the entire population of the country because you do not like the regime that these people did not choose.
Baroness Amos, another former UN under-secretary-general, told Sky News that if money is not sent urgently to the country, 3 million children under the age of 5″ face acute malnutrition by March.” Among them, a million children will die.
Britain’s Foreign Office last month pledged an additional £97 million ($131 million) of pledged emergency aid for Afghanistan, which the department says will provide 2.7 millions of people from food, health services and water.
But even with additional funds, millions of people in Afghanistan will remain at risk of starvation, impoverishment and freezing until a longer-term solution is found.
Billions of dollars in Afghan money held in banks or organizations abroad were frozen when the Taliban took over the country from the Western-backed government.
Late last month, the World Bank came under pressure from a group of charities, including Save the Children, to release more than $1.2 billion in Afghan cash, frozen since last year.
Gwen Hines, head of Save the Children UK, urged the US and UK to push to release the trust fund to support education and health.
“It becomes a vicious circle where everyone is waiting for everyone. But people have to overwinter or they will starve,” she said. “Parents sell their children. We cannot wait, we must act now.