Afghanistan is facing a “serious and worsening humanitarian crisis”, a Foreign Office minister has said.
Vicky Ford told MPs in the Commons that Afghanistan is facing the world’s “most severe food security crisis”.
Responding to an urgent question by Labour MP Clive Lewis (Norwich South), Ms Ford said: “It’s affecting well over half the population, with 23 million people facing acute food insecurity.
“This is now the world’s most severe food security crisis. The UN has this week requested nearly 4.5 billion dollars for 2022, the largest humanitarian appeal on record reflecting the magnitude of the humanitarian challenge ahead.”
But Mr Lewis said the UK’s response was “woeful”, asking how the Government would “square the circle of dealing with the Taliban and playing its part in supporting Afghanistan and humanitarian aid”.
He added: “The UN cannot deliver at the scale and speed needed by working alone. So will global Britain now show global leadership?”
Ms Ford replied: “It is incredibly important that the world steps up to this challenge and especially towards meeting that UN appeal. The Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and other ministers, including the minister for the region, are working really closely with world leaders including the US, the EU and the UN.”
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy asked: “Will the UK convene an urgent pledging conference, urged by former prime minister Gordon Brown, to try to pressure the international community to meet the enormous need?”
Mr Lammy cited the “chaos of withdrawal” last year, adding that the situation could not be more “grave”.
He said: “A further deterioration will have dire consequences for the people of Afghanistan and will impact not just the region, but also the UK, with more desperate people seeking sanctuary outside of the country.
“We must ensure that our sanction regime, and our understandable desire to place pressure on the Taliban regime, does not become an impediment to supporting the very people we seek to help.
“Some form of engagement is necessary if we are to support the people of Afghanistan, whether we like it or not.”
Ms Ford said that between April and December 2021 “we dispersed over £145 million worth of aid. £135 million of that went into life-saving humanitarian support inside Afghanistan”.
Labour chair of the International Development Committee Sarah Champion said the Taliban takeover “caused economic meltdown in Afghanistan”, asking: “What steps are being taken to unfreeze assets and ensure financial transactions linked to humanitarian aid are excluded from international sanctions.”
Labour’s Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) said: “Millions are starving, the state has collapsed and the economy is in freefall… how does the minister plan to unfreeze state assets, lift sanctions and get the Afghan economy turning again?”
Ms Ford spoke of the importance of “unlocking that 1.2 billion dollars that’s within the World Bank”.
Conservative Bob Blackman (Harrow East) described the Afghan resettlement scheme as a “big disappointment” for those with families still trapped in Afghanistan.
Ms Ford replied: “It’s not going to be possible to resettle every single case.”
Labour’s Chris Bryant (Rhondda) branded Operation Pitting a “disaster”, adding: “We have abandoned them to their future where there isn’t enough food… and part of the blame for that lies at the Government’s door.”
Ms Ford said British forces worked at “great speed”, adding: “We are supporting people in Afghanistan.”
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in