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In rightly focusing on the war in Ukraine, we must not forget Afghanistan

3 min read

The attention of the world is rightly focused on stopping Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine, including by providing military and humanitarian aid.

However, in just two weeks time the United Kingdom, along with Germany and Qatar will host a high-level pledging summit with the aim of mobilising the support necessary to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan.

The focus of the summit is on mobilizing financial support from donor governments and international financial situations for the Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP).

The plan sets out to ensure that 24.4 million people in urgent need – more than half the country’s population – receive life-saving humanitarian assistance.

Among much else, it will provide essential food aid: one in two children under-five face acute malnutrition and are at risk of death if immediate action is not taken. It will also provide vital medical assistance including to prevent and treat spikes in waterborne diseases, frustratingly persistent strains of polio and a surge in Covid-19 cases.

To do this, the 2022 HRP requires $4.4 billion and must be a central priority for the summit.

Without additional support from the international community, the education system will collapse

However, we also need to urgently agree how the international community will support Afghanistan to secure additional support for the ongoing delivery of basic services.

Prior to the change of regime, Afghanistan’s education system was almost entirely dependent on development assistance. Without additional support from the international community, the education system will collapse. Schools will shut, teachers will continue to be unpaid, and millions of children will be denied their fundamental right to an education.

Helpfully, UNESCO and the UK have co-led the development of a Transitional Education Framework which has been designed to sustain the country’s fragile education system. It includes support for learning materials, school meals for needy children and the direct payment of incentives to teachers who have not received their regular salaries for months.

Earlier this week, I asked the Deputy Prime Minister to ensure the UK uses the opportunity provided by the pledging summit to shine a light on Afghanistan’s need for assistance for education and to build support for the costed plan that forms part of the Afghanistan Transitional Educational Framework.

This could be done by convening a dedicated session at the pledging summit on education, with an ask of member states and international financial institutions to support the education framework.

Given the UK's commitment to education, especially for girls, and the leading role FCDO has played conveying education stakeholders in Afghanistan, we have a unique opportunity to rally the international community behind a plan that can not only protect the gains in educational access of the last twenty years but build on them. 

As Lord Ahmad, who is leading the preparations for the Afghanistan Summit on behalf of the UK, has said, it is critically important that the world does not lose its focus on the humanitarian challenges in Afghanistan.


Harriett Baldwin is the Conservative MP for West Worcestershire and former international development minister.

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