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An aid group has told a Senate inquiry that Afghanistan is “rapidly evolving into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”.

Addressing a committee examining Australia’s engagement with Afghanistan, Save the Children said more than 10 million children were in urgent need of humanitarian assistance to survive.

“Without immediate action from governments like Australia, the situation will become catastrophically worse,” said Mat Tinkler, the deputy chief executive of Save the Children Australia and the director of international programs.

Tinkler called on the Australian government to increase funding, with a commitment of at least $100m in new flexible humanitarian funding provided on a multi-year basis. He also reaffirmed called for the government to increase the humanitarian intake to a minimum of 20,000 places for Afghans, and support their safe passage.

“We have supported a number of our own staff to evacuate and have appreciated the cooperation and support of the Australian government.”

Weighing in to the contentious issue of talking with the Taliban, Tinkler said Australia should also work with other governments to determine “a common, constructive and principled modality for engaging with the Taliban both in Doha and in Afghanistan”. He said this engagement “should be grounded in and pursued with the view to ensure the protection of rights including women and girls’ rights, humanitarian access, and the provision of essential services”.

The inquiry also heard from Save the Children’s Afghanistan country director, Chris Nyamandi, who joined the hearing from Kabul.

Nyamandi said Save the Children had had a measure of success in negotiating access with the Taliban:

“I think the biggest issue that we are negotiating on is for female aid workers to be allowed to work and we have seen positive signals on that. However it’s clear that the Taliban authorities do not have the capacity, they do not have the resources, they do not have, in some ways, the political will to move on some important pieces. There is a general sense of a lack of urgency. If children are dying here in Kabul, then you can imagine what has happened in remote districts that we do not have access to. It will be important to exert a little bit more pressure so that there is a sense of urgency on what needs to be done to save lives.”


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