Donegal-born UN director Mary-Ellen McGroarty urges support for Afghan humanitarian effort

The Donegal woman heading up the UN World Food Programme in Afghanistan has urged the international community to support humanitarian efforts in the central Asian country.

Monday, 16th August 2021, 5:28 pm
Afghans inspect damaged shops after fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces in Kunduz city, northern Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Abdullah Sahil)

Mary-Ellen McGroarty, the WFP Country Director for Afghanistan, warned of a 'humanitarian catastrophe' if support is not forthcoming.

Speaking to RTÉ from Kabul on Sunday she said: "We have a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding before our eyes. 2021 was going to be an extraordinary year anyway - the country is facing into its second severe drought in as many years.

"What we are seeing in Kabul, now we have conflict raging throughout the country, and what we are seeing in Kabul is tens of thousands of people flooding into Kabul but this is being played out right across the country."

Ms. McGroarty, who previously worked with the WFP in Chad and South Sudan, said that the UN have been able to reach right across Afghanistan over the last couple of months.

"Since May, up until just last week, we have been able to each 4.1million people but that is not enough. We need to be doing much, much more so we are planning a major scale up starting in September," she said.

She said the ongoing political situation in Afghanistan that has seen the Ashraf Ghani regime replaced by the Taliban is 'worrying' but that the UN have received assurances that they will be able to continue their work unhindered.

"It is a very worrying time. It's a scary time. We have received assurances that everyone will be OK. In the last week we have been able to do operations in different parts of the country.

"We are hoping for a peaceful transition. This country now needs a ceasefire. This country now needs a peace so that the humanitarian community can respond to the emergency that is unfolding."

She urged the international community to support the humanitarian effort in a country facing into what is typically a severe winter.

"We urge the international community to support the humanitarian effort now. They must support the humanitarian effort. The humanitarian community and the UN are making it a priority to be able to stay and deliver.

"We are grossly underfunded. The WFP alone needs £200m before the end of the year. We need to get food in here quickly. We are approaching the severe winter in Afghanistan so I would urge the international community to support the humanitarian effort at this time in Afghanistan."