Written evidence submitted by The Halo Trust (AFG0023)
The HALO Trust welcomes this call for evidence and is pleased to provide evidence and recommendations.
HALO’s evidence draws on the organisation’s expertise as a unique international NGO which has operated in Afghanistan since 1988. The HALO Trust currently has 2,400 staff in Afghanistan all of whom have returned to work since the Taliban’s Takeover of Afghanistan. This makes The HALO Trust the largest UK international NGO working in Afghanistan.
We look forward to working with committee in this call for evidence.
- There are currently over 167 National and International NGOs in Afghanistan. They collectively employ over 31,000humanitarian staff, providing support to nearly 46 million people across all provinces of Afghanistan.
- Having previously cut aid to Afghanistan, the United Kingdom has announced that it increased aid in response to the crisis in Afghanistan to £286 million. However, this is still less than 2019 when the UK gave £292 million in aid.
- The ‘Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme,’ run by the Home Office, will accept 5,000 refugees in its first year and 20,000 overall. However, there is concern for those who were subcontracted, rather than directly employed by the British government, as they were not eligible under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy. The Taliban does not recognize differences in the employment status of Afghans who worked for the UK.
- According to the World Food Programme, 14 million people in Afghanistan face food insecurity, including two million children at risk of malnutrition.
- Emergency levels of acute malnutrition exist in 27 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
- The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR has reported 550,000 Afghans internally displaced since the beginning of 2021, in addition to 2.9 million Afghans who were already internally displaced.
- There has been a 73 per cent rise in internal displacement since June.
- At least 80 per cent of those displaced internally are believed to be women and children.
- It has been report that in a ‘worst-case scenario 500,000 Afghans are expected to leave the country by the end of 2021.
- Afghanistan has an estimated 1,500 km2 of contamination from landmine and other explosive hazards, with additional contamination from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Afghanistan has the highest civilian casualty rate in the world from mines, bombs and IEDs, the majority being caused by improvised munitions.
- There are 2,000 clinics suffering shortages of supplies according to the World Health Organisation.
- The NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan has brought millions of Afghan civilians to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe. This humanitarian crisis is now matched by a looming economic crisis. The UK must develop a forward-looking strategy immediately.
- UK humanitarian funding to assist ordinary Afghans must not be ‘held back’ as previously suggested by Dominic Raab MP when he was Foreign Secretary. The UK must instead work with allies and partners to find ways for UK Aid to continue to support humanitarian assistance and stability in a Taliban-led Afghanistan.
- Afghanistan has extensive contamination from improvised landmines and other explosive hazards. These pose a direct humanitarian threat to civilians, particularly people returning to their homes. Clearing them is essential to prevent further civilian death and injury. UK support to ‘mine action’ in Afghanistan is best delivered through trusted NGOs, not least The HALO Trust, which employs 2,400 people and has worked in Afghanistan continually for over 30 years.
- Many of the UK’s leading humanitarian organisations have long-standing experience of working in Afghanistan and other complex emergencies. The government must work with them to identify new ways of ensuring protection of civilians from the impact of conflict.
- The NGO community in Afghanistan is committed to stay and deliver a principled humanitarian response across the country. This means independently assessing need, and delivering life-saving assistance to those most at-risk of malnutrition, poverty, illness and in need of vital health, education, protection, shelter, and nutrition services.
- The UK should commit to upholding and following United Nations Security Council Resolution 2593 which the UK voted for on 30 August 2021. The Resolution called for enhanced efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. Further, it called on all donors and international humanitarian actors to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and major Afghan refugee-hosting countries. It went on to reaffirm the importance of upholding human rights, including those of women, children and minorities, and encouraged all parties to seek an inclusive, negotiated political settlement, with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women.
- The void left by NATO will be filled by China, Russia, Iran and others who don’t share UK values. Ignoring Afghanistan will have regional security, economic and strategic repercussions. The UK must also establish a consistent policy for engagement with Pakistan and other neighbouring states.
- The current situation in Afghanistan is a clear example of why the UK needs a new approach and strategy to mitigating the consequences of complex modern conflict. This must be genuinely integrated – which was the promise of the Integrated Review – and combine the full international capability of the UK, from trade, aid, diplomacy, security and defence.
29 October 2021