David Lammy visits Afghanistan to highlight humanitarian crisis

The Guardian
The Guardian
People queue to receive humanitarian assistance in Kabul last week Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

The shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, has flown to Kabul to see at first-hand the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.

Lammy is the first senior British politician to visit the country since the west’s chaotic pullout last August. He is being accompanied on his visit by Preet Gill, the shadow minister for international development.

The foreign affairs select committee recently published a scathing report about the Foreign Office’s handling of the British withdrawal that called for the resignation of the ministry’s permanent secretary , Sir Philip Barton. The report said the withdrawal was “a disaster, a betrayal of our allies and weakens the trust that helps to keep British people safe”.

Lammy regards his visit as one way of trying to raise the profile of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, where more than half the population are dependent on some form of aid, according to the UNHCR.

Aid funding remains well short of what is needed, and continued US sanctions make its dispersal complex. Lammy will visit a WHO-run children’s hospital, a youth centre, a Unicef child protection programme, and displaced communities. Last year 698,000 people were displaced by conflict and almost 1 million returnees from Iran and Pakistan were registered.

Lammy said: “The government downgraded the UK’s international reputation and made the whole world less safe with its calamitous handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer. Today millions of Afghanistan’s civilians are suffering from starvation, with some even forced to sell body parts to feed their families.

“The UK government’s woeful lack of leadership that was so visible last year is continuing as it ignores the humanitarian catastrophe. Ministers must urgently set out a comprehensive strategy for engaging with Afghanistan to support the millions of civilians who are starving, restore the 0.7% commitment to international aid, and lead the world by convening an emergency global food summit with the UN.”

A spokesperson for the Foreign Office said the UK was taking a “leading role in the humanitarian response to support the people of Afghanistan”.

“We doubled our aid to £286m last year and have matched that again this year, the spokesperson said. “We also co-hosted an international conference with the UN in March this year, which raised $2.5bn to respond to the humanitarian crisis.”

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