INTERVIEW: Mark Bowden on his time in Afghanistan and on revamping international aid
31 March 2017 – The conflict in Afghanistan is “partially forgotten,” the former United Nations Deputy Special Representative for the country has warned, calling for more aid for displaced families and a greater focus on bridging the poverty gaps.
“Afghanistan has been one of the most protracted crises, and I think people don’t realize the casualty rates that we’re dealing with here are second only to Syria,” Mark Bowden said in his last interview with UN News before leaving in late February after more than four years as the deputy of the UN Assistance Mission in the country (UNAMA).
At least 3,489 civilians were killed and 7,920 wounded in 2016, due in part to an increase in air raids, and attacks by the Taliban and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), according to UNAMA.
“I am worried that the situation has deteriorated in terms of the large numbers of displaced people that we see, but also in terms of the number of civilian casualties that take place,” Mr. Bowden said.
“We have seen a year-on-year increase in civilian casualties which just demonstrates that civilians are the most affected by the war. As the war progresses and appears to deepen, then I think there is a real cause for concern,” he stated.
In 2016 alone, more than half-a-million Afghans fled their homes and sought shelter elsewhere within the country’s border. Of those 580,000 people, about 56 per cent were children under the age of 18, according to Afghanistan’s statistics on internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Despite heavy investment, the lives of millions of Afghans have not substantially improved and the number living in absolute poverty is rising. This year, the UN predicts that some 9.3 million Afghans will be in need of humanitarian assistance.
“I think one of the key changes taking place is a shift in aid policy in the country, and that requires a movement from aid being used to basically maintain the stability of the country, and to move away from a security focus far more to a developmental focus,” he said, adding: “That in turn, essentially, all of Afghanistan’s progress will depend on the ability to bring peace to the country which is why peace negotiations are absolutely critical, both to change the humanitarian environment and the development one.” - Read More, UN