The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Laurent Saillard, Director, ACBAR,; +93 (0)706 602 570 or +93 (0)799 755 001
Hashem Mayar, Deputy Director, ACBAR,;  +93 700 284 323,

Humanitarian Agencies Call for Aid Based on Afghans' Needs, Not the Military's

Aid agencies in Afghanistan call donors to meet the humanitarian needs of Afghans, outlined in a recently launched $870 million funding appeal.


As the US prepares to deploy additional
troops, the ACBAR coalition representing over 100 Afghan and
international aid agencies urged donors to address the need for
principled humanitarian assistance independent of political and
military goals, ranging from aid for refugees to mobile health services.

The 2010 Humanitarian Action Plan (HAP) maps out a one-year strategy
for aid agencies to address lifesaving needs and fill the gaps that the
government is unable to meet. Weak institutions, corruption and
violence have limited the government's ability to provide for and
protect its citizens, including 5.5 million refugees who have returned
home and hundreds of thousands displaced by ongoing violence. A recent report by Oxfam International showed that Afghans viewed poverty as one of the main drivers of the conflict.

In 2009 nearly 200 million dollar in health, nutrition, mine action
and emergency shelter projects were not funded by donors. The funding
shortfalls have led to thousands of flood-affected people without
proper shelter for the harsh winter and unable to replant damaged

Alarming levels of child malnutrition

Despite this year's bumper harvest, millions of Afghans do not meet
their basic food requirements and child malnutrition is at alarming
levels. In November, a joint assessment conducted in a camp for
displaced people in Kabul showed that more than one in five children
screened were classified as acutely malnourished and had no access to
treatment. "Urgent action and effective nutrition surveillance in both
urban and rural areas is essential to prevent a crisis and also to
ensure that we are better able to respond to the needs of the people at
risk" said Shashwat Saraf, head of mission of Action Contre la Faim.

"Donors are not doing enough to meet the needs of Afghans," says Dr.
Habibullah Sahak, country director of Ibn Sina, an Afghan health
organization. "Health services have somewhat improved but over 200,000 children and 17,000 pregnant women continue to die each year, mostly because they lack basic healthcare, clean water and nutrition."

Aid representatives say that most aid money available for
Afghanistan requires working through the government or supporting
counterinsurgency operations. "Working with the government is the best
approach to sustainable development - if you have stability. With the
government coming under attack, it is becoming riskier to be associated
with its programs in some areas." said Laurent Saillard, Director of

Too much aid is tied to military operations

Humanitarian groups argue that too much aid goes to where troops are
located or is being used as part of the counterinsurgency strategy. "If
we are forced to be involved in counterinsurgency activities and work
with provincial reconstruction teams and military entities, our
acceptance in the communities will be compromised. This is a risk we
cannot take and as a result, we have turned down funding opportunities
which require working with the military and involvement in
counterinsurgency," said Lex Kassenberg, country director for CARE

The Pentagon has already doubled aid available to the U.S. military
in Afghanistan to $1.2 billion through the Commanders' Emergency
Response Program (CERP). USAID is also expected to channel the majority
of its funds to support counterinsurgency operations in the south and
east. Canada, which has troops in Kandahar, puts half of its funding
into the war torn province.

There is an urgent need to balance the aid funds with the military budgets. A conservative assessment shows that aid money coming to the country is less than 10% of the military spending by the troop-contributing nations.

"The military are part of the conflict so they are unable to provide
aid without jeopardizing the safety and security of civilians," said
Hashim Mayar, Deputy Director of ACBAR. "Aid should only be provided by
troops as a last resort to save lives, in accordance with
civil-military guidelines endorsed by both NATO and the Pentagon."

Read more

Download the report: The Cost of War: Afghan Experiences of Conflict, 1978 - 2009.

The Cost of War, a moving story in pictures

Oxfam's emergency work in Afghanistan

Notes to editors

Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan relief (ACBAR) represents over 100
Afghan and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). ACBAR
facilitates coordination and information sharing for NGOs, the Afghan
government, UN and donors to ensure the efficient and effective use of
aid to the Afghan people at both regional and national level. ACBAR
also advocates on issues affecting the work of its members in

The Humanitarian Action Plan is an annual process managed by the UN
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), whereby UN
agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) jointly strategize,
implement and monitor humanitarian programs. Project proposals are
screened and prioritized by technical working groups to be presented to
donors. Projects can be submitted throughout the year as new needs

Oxfam International is a global movement of people who are fighting inequality to end poverty and injustice. We are working across regions in about 70 countries, with thousands of partners, and allies, supporting communities to build better lives for themselves, grow resilience and protect lives and livelihoods also in times of crisis.