UNAMA Year in Review February 2009: Secretary-General visits Afghanistan

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The United Nations and its partners launched the Humanitarian Action Plan (HAP) for Afghanistan in February and appealed for US$ 604 million to help meet the needs of Afghans made vulnerable by natural disasters, lack of access to basic social services, increasing food insecurity and the worsening security situation.

About US$ 354 million of the appeal has been directed towards food aid, while almost US$ 100 million will be used to rid Afghanistan of landmines, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told reporters in Geneva, where the HAP was launched.

UNAMA also released its annual report (for 2008) on the Situation of Civilians in Armed Conflicts in February. This report, which was compiled by the Mission's Human Rights Unit, drew on extensive, independent, and impartial monitoring and investigation of incidents involving the loss of life or injury to civilians in conflict zones.

According to the Report, in 2008, UNAMA recorded a total of 2,118 civilian casualties, which was 40 per cent higher than the previous year.

"This disquieting pattern demands that the parties to the conflict take all necessary measures to avoid the killing of civilians," the report observed.

Of the 2,118 civilians killed, anti-government elements (AGEs) were responsible for 55 per cent of the casualties while pro-government forces were responsible for 39 per cent. The report maintained that a majority of civilian casualties occurred in south Afghanistan. The report also noted that the deteriorating security situation and drastically reduced humanitarian access intensified the challenge for the humanitarian agencies to address the growing needs of vulnerable Afghans.

Meantime, earlier in the month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Kabul to demonstrate the UN's strong support for Afghanistan. During the visit, Mr Ban met with President Hamid Karzai and informed him that "for the United Nations, Afghanistan remains a key priority in 2009." The Secretary-General also added he was "determined to see Afghanistan enjoy full democracy, full security and full development."

The UN's ongoing commitment to Afghanistan was backed by a US$ 27 million working plan signed between the United Nations Children's Fund in Afghanistan and the Ministry of Public Health to support national priorities including immunization, school health and maternal mortality.

By Aditya Mehta, UNAMA