Australian citizens, alongside corporates and organisations, have donated over $10 million to help the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) address the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, marking the largest private sector contribution in the organisation’s 21-year history.
The unparalleled citizen-sourced fund trumps that of many governments, and National Director of Australia for UNHCR Naomi Steer said she couldn’t be more thankful for the generosity.
The funds, Steer explained, will allow UNHCR to provide lifesaving emergency aid, like makeshift shelters and food and water, and construct temporary schools, health clinics and livelihood programs for millions of displaced Afghans.
"The extraordinary public response to this crisis reflects how strongly people feel about the situation right now in Afghanistan and the plight of more than 3.6 million people displaced within the country,” she said in a statement. “I am so grateful to our donors right across Australia — from individuals, business, the arts and sports community and notable philanthropists — who have joined together in supporting Afghan people at this critical time.”
The UNHCR has already provided support to almost half a million people since the crisis began.
$10 million for #Afghanistan. Just, wow!— Australia for UNHCR (@UNrefugees) November 9, 2021
The generosity and compassion of everyday Australians, corporates and organisations has shone brightly, as Australia is now the largest private sector contributor to the UN Refugee Agency’s work in Afghanistan. What an achievement! pic.twitter.com/zqkKiT2Imo
Some of the high profile Australians to have donated include sports stars Ian Chappell, Shane Warne and Sam Kerr.
Artist and social commentator Ben Quilty, meanwhile, helped raise $6 million for the organisation thanks to million-dollar donations from Mike Cannon-Brookes, billionaire and co-CEO of software company Atlassian, and the Chair of the Wilson Foundation, Karen Wilson.
Over 500 artists similarly donated upon Quilty’s request, auctioning paintings and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"I have never been prouder to be a part of the [arts] community,” Quilty said in a UNHCR video. “The Taliban is going nowhere, so please consider donating if you haven’t already. We can do what our government has failed to do, as the UNHCR is currently doing in Afghanistan, which is to stand by the Afghan people.”
After the Taliban militant group overturned the government and violently took control of the country in August, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne revealed Australia would contribute $100 million in humanitarian aid. Of the sum, $5 million was reserved for the UNHCR Supplementary Appeal, while $65 million was flagged for immediate lifesaving assistance.
"Australia will also contribute around $35 million in ongoing humanitarian assistance to address the protracted nature of the humanitarian crisis out to 2024,” Payne explained in mid-September when the new Australian funding was first announced.
Activists and humanitarians say while the funding is welcome, Australia must offer protection to those fleeing.
The sector has explicitly called on the Australian Government to provide sanctuary to at least 20,000 fleeing activists, human rights defenders, women and girls, LGBTQ+ individuals, media, translators and members of ethnic and religious minority groups.
Further funding must also be delivered to those unable to flee and permanent protection afforded to Afghans already in Australia.