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AFGHANISTAN: Red Crescent calls for closer cooperation with UN, donors

KABUL, 29 November 2007 (IRIN) - The growing humanitarian needs of Afghans must come ahead of political and strategic priorities and the UN and other international donors ought to “better recognise” the pivotal role of the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) when dealing with humanitarian emergencies in Afghanistan, Fatima Gailani, president of the ARCS, told IRIN on 29 November.

Lack of resources, funding and professional capacity has complicated ARCS’s ability to respond effectively to overwhelming humanitarian needs across the country.

“Afghanistan’s humanitarian response capacity has remained very weak and vulnerable despite large amounts of aid money spent by various donors,” Gailani said.

Established in the 1940s, the ARCS has about 37,000 volunteers country-wide and is involved in different humanitarian operations, including health services, landmine awareness, disaster response and relief activities.

The ARCS acknowledges support and assistance from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the past 15 years, but criticises the UN for lack of “interest, coordination and support”.

“In the last three years, the UN has not approached the ARCS to see if there are things which we do better together,” Gailani said.

UNAMA ready to work with ARCS

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is ready to work with national non-government organisations (NGOs), including ARCS, particularly in areas where the UN has access problems, said Adrian Edwards, a UNAMA spokesman.

UN agencies do not have access to large swaths of southern and southeastern Afghanistan due to insecurity problems.

However, the UN prefers to work with organisations, which “do the best job” and ensure accountability, the UN spokesman said. “Funding is not so much the issue, but capacity to deliver programmes on the ground.”

Gailani said UN agencies should work closely with the ARCS on long-term capacity building and ease off on reliance on short-term arrangements. “The ARCS is a national institution and will last a long time, while NGOs come and go,” she said.

Challenges remain

Afghanistan is considered the fifth least developed country in the world and millions of its estimated 24.5 million people suffer from protracted food insecurity, lack of access to health services and a variety of other deprivations.

Six years after an international intervention, and despite the spending of large sums of aid money, the suffering and needs of many vulnerable Afghans are yet to be addressed, aid agencies say.

“People are asking what the UN and other donors are doing here,” said Fatima Gailani, adding that inaccessibility and security concerns alone cannot justify the shortcomings.

UN officials, however, say more assistance is the key to tackling the issue.



Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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