Situation very fluid, but UN continues to serve civilians, says Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
GENEVA (AA) – Despite growing insecurity in Afghanistan, the UN said on Friday that it remains committed to humanitarian work in the war-torn country, adding that it has been there for decades.
Jens Laerke, Geneva spokesman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), was asked by Anadolu Agency how the UN is responding to the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghan cities.
“The UN has been in Afghanistan uninterrupted for 70 years, and we are still there,” Laerke told a press conference.
“We have a very large, very deep presence across Afghanistan, particularly on the humanitarian side, where we have been supporting people for four decades and we remain, by and large, in the areas where we were before.”
He said the safety of UN personnel, both national and international, is naturally a concern for OCHA.
“But we are staying where we are; we have all intentions to stay and deliver for the Afghan people,” he added.
‘Deal is with the Afghan people’
“The deal that we have in Afghanistan is with the Afghan people with the civilians and we are there to stay and help them.”
Laerke said the situation in Afghanistan is “very volatile, fluid, and rapidly changing.”
Following days of heavy clashes, the Taliban captured Afghanistan’s second- and third-largest cities of Kandahar and Herat on Thursday, and advanced on three more provincial capitals by early Friday.
Pul-e-Alam is the 15th provincial capital to be fully or partially overrun by the Taliban.
According to the UN figure, more than 1,000 people have died as the Taliban tried to seize government-held cities over the past month.
Rheal Leblanc, a UN spokesman in Geneva, said the security of UN personnel is a top priority for the organization.
“And we are doing everything we can to keep these people safe. But of course, we rely on the Afghan government. The host country is responsible for the security of the UN staff in the country and in any country.”
At the same press conference, World Food Program spokesman Tomson Phiri said: “The food security and nutrition situation in Afghanistan is dire.”
“One in three Afghans is acutely food insecure today,” meaning 14 million people, he said.
Phiri said some 2 million children need nutrition treatment. A second drought has hit the country in four years, and a below-average harvest is projected.
“We fear the worst is yet to come, and a larger tide of hunger is fast approaching. It’s not a secret the situation has worsened and is becoming increasingly unpredictable.
“The conflict has accelerated much faster than we all anticipated. The situation has all the hallmarks of a humanitarian catastrophe,” he added.