This has again been a most unusual, even precarious Christmas break for so many of us across Scotland.
While for many, it has been wonderful to catch up with family and friends they may not have seen for a year or more, many are doing so worried they may catch or pass on the latest variant of this persistent and pervasive Coronavirus.
As we begin to look forward to the year ahead, the challenges and how we rebuild and create opportunities, it is understandable that that all our energy is focused on our families, friends and neighbours, thinking of their safety and wellbeing as we begin 2022.
In these circumstances, we as politicians have an important role to play in raising awareness of issues that may have slipped from the headlines.
So please can I ask you to take a moment to consider the plight of millions of families in Afghanistan who have spent this period clinging by a thread to life with little or no hope for the future.
In freezing Winter temperatures, 22 million people are desperately short of food. 8 million of those, well above Scotland’ total population are on the brink of famine. Probably most distressing of all, children are already dying through malnutrition and a million more under the age of five are at risk of dying over these three coldest Winter months ahead.
This fractured country has been devastated by years of civil war and regime changes, it is currently enduring its worst drought in nearly 30 years and of course the spread of coronavirus where less than 10 percent of the population have been vaccinated and health services are hopelessly ill- equipped to treat those most badly affected.
For all these reasons, the Disaster Emergency Committee has again launched one of its rare but vital appeals for funds – from me, from you, from anyone or any organisation here in Scotland in a position to help.
13 of its 15 UK member charities have been working hard in Afghanistan for the past several weeks to make sure that money that is donated here in Scotland will reach those most in need – millions of children and babies who are badly malnourished and could starve in the coming days and weeks, millions of others who have been forced from their homes and are tying to find shelter and warmth as temperatures plumet to minus ten degrees or lower.
Your support will fund emergency food supplies and special supplements for badly malnourished babies whilst also bolstering the most depleted hospitals and health workers. The money will also be spent on basic life support items such as blankets and clean drinking water.
If you are ready to donate, just £10 could provide treatment to a child suffering from malnutrition for three weeks, £100 could pay for emergency food supplies for 3 months to give them a fighting chance of making it through this Winter.
Having served as an MSP for more than 20 years, I know that many people in Scotland are proud global citizens and following the recent COP26 climate summit in Glasgow and of course the ongoing pandemic, many more now sense our interdependence in tackling these defining issues of our generation and for future generations.
The terrible crisis unfolding in Afghanistan is only the most recent and extreme example of how conflict, climate change and the coronavirus – the deadly ‘3 Cs’ are putting a record number of people around the world under greater danger than ever before. OCHA, the main United Nations body that coordinates humanitarian response only last month forecast that 274 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian support in 2022, that’s another rise of more than 15 percent on a previous record last year.
So as politicians, whilst grappling with unprecedented challenges here at home, we mustn’t forget our role as champions of a modern, relevant and compassionate global citizenship to help those most in need wherever they are.
If you can, please demonstrate your global solidarity by donating now to help starving families in Afghanistan make it through the Winter.