Afghanistan faces humanitarian disaster if peace talks fail, UN official warns

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday warned of a humanitarian disaster if the Afghan peace process collapses, as thousands of displaced people struggle to survive the coronavirus pandemic and the harsh winter.

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi told The Associated Press at the end of a four-day visit to Afghanistan that if the fighting continues, there will be more internal displacement.

“If this peace effort collapses then we could see a big humanitarian disaster in the country that is for sure, I hope it won’t,” he said.

Despite the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Qatar, violence and chaos have increased in Afghanistan in recent months and the two sides have made little progress.

“I think we need to be ready for everything here, we need to be ready for more humanitarian issues,” Grandi said.

The International Rescue Committee warned earlier this year that Afghanistan is on the brink of disaster because the government is unable to test some 80% of possible coronavirus cases.

Afghanistan has so far officially recorded more than 43,000 confirmed cases of the virus, including 1,600 deaths, with the number of infections thought to far outnumber the official tally.

Grandi urged the international community to remain committed to Afghanistan and called for greater support for displaced and returning Afghans ahead of a donor pledging conference in Geneva next week.

He said his message in Geneva would be that countries should be prepared for two scenarios: a good one in which it’s necessary to invest in development but also one in which, especially in the short term, more food, water and shelter aid will be needed for people displaced by the conflict.

In addition to Afghans displaced within the country, more than 742,000 Afghans have returned from Iran and Pakistan since the beginning of this year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The majority of them are working and trying to provide for large families. But with the lack of job opportunities and insecurity, it is often not possible for the breadwinner of a large family to adequately support them financially.

Grandi appealed to all sides of the conflict to reduce the violence in Afghanistan.

The violence “doesn’t create the confidence in the peace process that they need, not only the refugees and displaced, but all the Afghan people,” he said.

“So, I am telling the Afghan people be patient, but I have to tell the others, hurry up and find the solution soon because it is much needed, 40 years is a long time for suffering.” (Source: Mainichi  Japan)

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