Afghanistan

Afghans face crisis as Gordon Brown meets President Karzai, Oxfam warns

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The bleak situation for ordinary Afghans, who are entering winter facing a food crisis and pervasive insecurity, must be top of the agenda when Gordon Brown meets Afghan president Hamid Karzai, Oxfam urged today.

Up to five million Afghans face food shortages this winter, but the increasing violence is making it difficult for aid agencies to reach those in need.

A =A3270 million United Nations appeal to help the most vulnerable Afghans was launched in July but is still less than half-funded by foreign donors. Now snowfall has started in some areas and time is running out to pre-position vital humanitarian relief, including food, before remote regions are cut off by the winter weather.

Delay in the provision of funds would significantly increase risk of malnutrition for half a million women and children. The funds pledged by the UK government must reached Afghanistan as soon as possible.

Matt Waldman, Oxfam's head of policy for Afghanistan, said:

"There is an impending humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan with millions of people already facing hunger, and the situation is compounded by higher levels of insecurity than at any point since 2001.

"President Karzai and Prime Minister Brown must consider all possible means of ensuring a fast and effective response to the crisis.

"To achieve a sustainable resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan, it is vital for ordinary Afghans to see real improvements in their lives. This can only come about through sustained investment in basic services, rural development and agriculture, the bedrock of Afghan livelihoods, and major improvements in aid effectiveness.

"If Afghanistan is to recover from three decades of conflict, the UK and all major donors must remain committed to providing substantial and long term assistance to the country."

/ends

Notes to editors:

The food crisis in Afghanistan is caused by a combination of factors, including a severe winter, high food prices, drought in the centre and north of the country, limited regional food supplies, increasing and spreading insecurity, and a high volume of returnees (refugees from Pakistan, and economic migrants from Iran).

The UK government has paid =A32m to the United Nations' appeal but has pledged a further =A39m.

For more information please contact Sean Kenny on +44 7766 443 506 or skenny@oxfam.org.uk