This is a summary of what was said by UNICEF Afghanistan Representative, Hervé Ludovic De Lys – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
NEW YORK/KABUL, 18 August 2021 – “During the last phase of the armed conflict until the final takeover of Kabul a few days ago, UNICEF has continued to deliver for Afghanistan’s children and respond to their urgent needs.
“Despite all the unanswered questions that lie ahead, one thing is certain: UNICEF is here to stay and deliver for every child and every woman in Afghanistan. UNICEF has been here for 65 years and we’re not leaving.
“It is true, that for our own safety, in some provincial areas, the Taliban asked us to pause operations until order is restored. But we are in daily contact with the local leadership in almost all provinces, and their message is clear: They want us to stay and continue our work in Afghanistan.
“We have been engaging constructively with the new leadership to preserve our operational presence across the country and we are hopeful that we will scale up our work for women and children in the coming days.
“UNICEF is scaling up its humanitarian response in the country. In the short term, we’re providing mobile health and nutrition teams in camps for internally displaced people. UNICEF and partners are scaling up water provision across the IDP camps and across the drought-affected areas to alleviate suffering.
“In the longer term, and once we have a government interlocutor, UNICEF intends to reinforce the current partnership with NGO/INGOs and clarify the working modalities with the line ministries. We are seeing a potential opportunity to have a greater reach across the country. For example, we intend to reach close to 500,000 nutrition cases in the hard to reach areas that were inaccessible previously.
“We are also hopeful that we can take a giant stride on polio. Afghanistan is one of two polio-endemic countries in the world. One of our biggest challenges in recent years has been access to communities, including homes and mosques, to vaccinate children. Now, we are hopeful that access will become easier. I believe that with our partners at the Gates Foundation, we have an opportunity to eradicate polio through the ongoing effective coordination with WHO.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank all the donors who have made it possible for us to operate in Afghanistan. Without their assistance, we would not be able to expand our operations and deliver life-saving services for the most vulnerable children and women.
“This is a period of transition in Afghanistan; no one can predict what happens next. But I can tell you that as recently as yesterday, primary and secondary schools were open in Herat in the west, and in Marouf, in the south of the country, 1,500 children were in school, including 500 girls. And the fact that the Health Commission yesterday asked all doctors, nurses and health workers to return to work, including women, is an encouraging sign.
“But with half a million people internally displaced, and over 18 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, half of whom are children, the needs are great. Drought is still affecting the country. Without urgent action, 1 million children under the age of 5 will be severely malnourished by end of 2021. So far in 2021, UNICEF has reached 1.7 million people with humanitarian assistance. We still require US$76 million in 2021 to provide lifesaving assistance to the most vulnerable, especially children.
“This lifesaving work depends on durable peace and stability. To reach the hardest to reach children, UNICEF is advocating with all parties for safe and unhindered access, in line with the Core Commitments for Children in Emergencies and humanitarian principles.
“We hope that with the new leadership in Afghanistan, we can reach the children that were missed earlier with life-saving health services and education, especially girls.”
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