Remarks by UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell at the high-level pledging event on supporting the humanitarian response in Afghanistan

01 April 2022
On 24 February 2022, UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell, talks to girls attending classes at a UNICEF-supported community-based school in Kandahar’s Dand district.
UNICEF/UN0597240/Fazel
On 24 February 2022, UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell, talks to girls attending classes at a UNICEF-supported community-based school in Kandahar’s Dand district.

NEW YORK, 31 March 2022  "This conference could not come at a more urgent time for the 13 million children in urgent need of humanitarian assistance today in Afghanistan.

"The worst drought in nearly 40 years ... rising food prices ... a collapsing economy ... and outbreaks of preventable diseases are all taking a terrible toll on children and families.

"I recently traveled to rural Afghanistan and the suffering is overwhelming. Families are being crushed by poverty and hunger. A 25-year-old mother of five told me that her family subsists on a diet of bread and water.

"Malnutrition is soaring.In a hospital in Kandahar, I saw emaciated babies, too weak to cry, and mothers who were also badly malnourished. UNICEF predicts that more than 1 million children could become so severely malnourished this year that they will be at risk of death.

"While many children have been able to return to school recently, the de facto authorities’ decision to delay the return to school for millions of adolescent girls is a major setback for girls and their futures. We call on them to honor their commitment to girls’ education without further delays.

"We cannot let the future of Afghanistan’s children be held hostage to politics. The international community, the de facto authorities, community leaders have to work together to give these children a chance to come through this crisis. They need access to safe water and sanitation, to nutrition, to health services, to social protection, and to education.

"UNICEF will continue doing everything we can for children and families in Afghanistan. We are grateful for the funding we have already received. But we call on donors today to continue supporting us with flexible funding so we can prevent the collapse of basic services and deliver lifesaving support.

"Time is running out for children in Afghanistan. Please help us to help them."

Media contacts

Christopher Tidey
UNICEF New York
Tel: +1-917-340-3017
Samantha Mort
UNICEF Afghanistan
Tel: +93 79 998 7110

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